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In the following pages we have endea\-oured to set forth 
an account of the customs and social organisation of certain 
of the tribes inhabiting Central Australia. 

It has been the lot of one of us to spend the greater part 
of the past twenty )-ears in the centre of the continent, and 
as sub-protector of the Aborigines he has had exceptional 
opportunities of coming into contact with, and of gaining 
the confidence of, the members of the large and important 
Arunta tribe, amongst whom he has lived, and of which 
tribe both of us, it may be added, are regarded as full)- 
initiated members. 

In the month of Jul)-, 1894, we met at Alice Springs, when 
the scientific expedition organised by j\Ir. W. A. Horn, of 
Adelaide, visited that part of the continent, and it was then 
that one of us gave to Dr. E. C. Stirling, the anthropologist 
of the expedition, notes which have since been published in 
the anthropological section of the report on the work of the 
expedition. This report included the results of the informa- 
tion gained up to that time with regard to the Central tribes, 
and in respect to certain points, we have, to some extent, had 
to traverse the same ground in order to make our account as 
complete as possible ; but it was very evident that in regard 
to the customs and organisation of the tribe we were then 
only on the threshold of the inquiry, and at a subsequent 
time we determined to carr\- on the work. 



During the summer of 1896-7, the natives gathered to- 
gether at Alice Springs to perform an important series of 
ceremonies, constituting what is called the Kngwura, and 
this, which occupied more than three months, we witnessed 
together. The series of ceremonies then enacted enabled us 
not only to gain a knowledge of, and an insight into the 
meaning of certain of them, which until then had not been 
seen by Europeans, but also served to indicate lines of in- 
quiry along which further investigation would prove to be of 

In addition to the investigation of various customs, such as 
those connected with initiation and magic, we have paid 
special attention to the totemic system and to matters con- 
cerned with the social organisation of the tribes. In con 
nection especialh- with the totemic system, we desire to 
em|jhasize the fact that, whilst there is some degree of 
uniformity in regard to customs amongst the series of tribes 
inhabiting the continent, there is also, as might be expected, 
ver}' considerable diversity. The physical conditions of the 
continent are such that groups of tribes inhabiting \arious 
regions have b^n, to a large extent, isolated from one another 
for a long period of time and have undoubtedly developed 
along different lines. The result is that, in respect to the 
totemic s\-stcm, for example, groups of tribes differ from one 
another to a large extent, and the customs of no one tribe or 
group can be taken as typical of Australia gencrall\- in, at 
most, anything but broad outline. 

The question of the social organisation of the Australian 
tribes and the significance of the " terms of relationship " 
have given rise to a considerable amount of difference of 
opinion, and into these we have inquired as carefully as 
possible. The result of our work is undoubtecil}' to cor- 
roborate that of Messrs. Howitt and Fison in regard to 
these matters. 


We have endeavoured to set forth the results of our in- 
vestigations so that the reader may see, on the one hand, the 
actual facts, and on the other, the conclusions at which, in 
certain cases, we have arrived after a consideration of these. 

As it has been our main object to write simply an account 
of the Central tribes, we have not referred to the work of 
other authors, except so far as it was directly concerned with 
the tribes investigated. The work by Mr. W. E. Roth on 
the Aborigines of North-West Central Queensland reached 
us when our manuscript was written, and we have added 
references to it chiefl}- in the form of footnotes. ]\Ir. Roth's 
work bears more closely upon certain parts of ours than that 
of any other author does, and is in some respects, especially 
in connection with the system of organisation, the most de- 
tailed account yet published of any Australian tribe, and we 
gladly take this opportunity, as fellow-workers in the same 
field, of expressing our high appreciation of his work. 

The time in which it will be possible to investigate the 
Australian native tribes is rapidly drawing to a close, and 
though we know more of them than we do of the lost Tas- 
manians, yet our knowledge is ver\- incomplete, and unless 
some special effort be made, many tribes will practical!}- die 
out without our gaining any knowledge of the details of their 
organisation, or of their sacred customs and beliefs. 

We have, in conclusion, the pleasant duty of acknowledg- 
ing the assistance received from various friends. To Mr. 
C. E. Cowle and Mr. P. M. Byrne, both of whom, from long 
residence amongst them, are well acquainted with the natives, 
we are indebted in various ways for the most cordial assist- 
tance, and to Mr. Cowle one of us owes the opportunity of 
traversing certain parts of the interior which would otherwise 
have been inaccessible to him. 

To Mr. C. Winnecke we are especially indebted. There is 
no one who has a fuller knowledge of the topography of 


Central Australia, and this knowledge he most generousl\- 
and freel)' placed at our disposal, drawing, up for us the two 
maps on which are indicated the localities of the principal 
spots associated with the traditions of the Arunta natives. 
It will be understood that these maps are not intended to 
indicate our present knowledge of the geographical features 
of Central Australia, all except the more imi)ortant ones 
being purposel}' omitted. 

We have to thank Mr. W. A. Horn and Dr. E. C. Stirling 
for permission to utilize certain drawings illustrative of native 
rock paintings which were originally made to illustrate Dr. 
Stirling's anthropological report dealing with the Arunta 

Finall)-, we have to express our deep sense of the obliga- 
tion under which we lie to Dr. K. B. Tylor and Mr. J. (i. 
Frazcr. It need hardly be pointed out how much wc arc 
indebted to their work as indicating to us lines of inquiry, 
but in addition to this we have received from them the most 
cordial personal encouragement and help. They have most 
kindl\- read through the proofs — indeed to Mr. PVazer we 
are deeph' indebted for the final revision of these, and in 
offering them our warmest thanks, we venture to express 
the hope that the work ma>- pro\e to be worth)- of the 
interest which they have taken in it. 

Mki, BOURNE, Man/i, 1898. 

























{concluded) ^ii 




CUSTOMS {continueit) 423 



























•Glossary of Native Terms used 645 

iNTiEX 661 



1. Outline Map of the Central Area, showing the Distribution of 

the Tribes referred to 3 

2. Group of Old Men at a Wurley 13 

3. Members of a Family of Arunta Natives, showing the Wurley, 

Weapons and Implements used in daily life 17 

4. Spear Throwing 18 

5. Spear Throwing 19 

6. Boomerang Throwing" 21 

7. Arunta Native, side face 29 

8. Arunta Native, full face 31 

9. Arunta Native, old man 33 

10. Arunta Native, to show the frizzly nature of the beard 35 

11. Arunta Native, to show the wavy nature of the hair 39 

12. Group of Warramunga Men, four of the older ones have the 

upper lip bare . 41 

13. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, side face 43 

14. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, full face 45 

15. Young Woman, Arunta, showing body scars and tooth knocked 

out 47 

16. Old Woman, Arunta Tribe 49 

17. Young Woman, Warramunga Tribe 51 

18. Woman carrying Child, Arunta Tribe 53 

19. Diagram of Marriage System in the Dieri Tribe 109 

20. Wooden Churinga or Sacred Sticks of the Urabunna, Luritcha 

and Arunta Tribes 129 

21. Stone Churinga of the Arunta, Kaitish and Warramunga Tribes 131 

22. Sacred Objects of the Waaga ribe 1 58 



23. Churinga which have just been returned after having been bor- 

rowed. During the performance of ceremonies tliey are placed 

on the small platform built in the tree 163 

24. Sacred Drawings of the Witchetty Cirul) Totem on the rocks at 

the Emily Gap 171 

25. The (ueat Ilthura where Intichiuma was performed at the Emily 

^'•^P 173 

26. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Uchaqua during the 

Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Crub Totem. The 
men are sitting in one of the Ilthura 174 

27. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Unchima during the 

Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Grub Totem. The 
men are sitting in one of the Ilthura 175 

28. The Alatunja returning to Camp after the Intichiuma ceremony 

of the Witchetty Grub Totem at the Emily Gap 177 

29. Group of Men of the Emu Totem sitting round the Churinga 

Ilpintira, which is drawn on the ground 181 

30. Preparing Decorations for the performance of the Intichiuma 

Ceremony of the Emu Totem 182 

31. Performance of the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Unjiamba 

Totem. Pouring blood on to the stone 184 

32. Intichiuma Ceremony of Water Totem 190 

33. Undiara, where the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Kangaroo 

Totem is performed 195 

34. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up 

in the air 216 

35. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up 

in the air 217 

36. Diagram of the Apulia Ground 219 

27- Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem, men lying down on the top 

of the Wurtja 224 

38. Ceremony of Kangaroo Totem, the two men standing up wear 

small Waningas ; the man lying down is supjjosed to be a dog 225 

39. The Wurtja embracing the Waninga, which has been used 

during a Ceremony of the Rat Totem 233 

40. The Wurtja crouching behind his brake ; on his back is a design 

of the Snake Totem ; the Apulia lines are seen with the Group 
of Men in front of their brake ; the man who will perform the 
operation of circumcision is on the left and his assistant on 
the right side 235 



41. Women stripping the poles, just before the Ceremony of 

Lartna in the Northern Arunta Tribe 245 

42. The operator and his assistant standing in position during the 

performance of Lartna. The operator holds the small stone 
knife in his right hand 247 

43. Immediately before the Ceremony of Ariltha ; the two Arakurta 

embracing the Nurtunja, which has been used during a cere- 
mony of the Bandicoot Totem 254 

44. Immediately after the Ceremony of Ariltha ; the two Ertwakurka 

sitting on the Shields 255 

45. Old Men in charge of the Store of Churinga belonging to the 

Purula and Kumara, during the Engwura Ceremony. The 
Churinga are stored on a platform called Thanunda .... 273 

46. Plan of the Engwura Ground 276 

47. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem : the long cord 

represents the path of the Wild Cat men as they travelled along 

in the Alcheringa 287 

48. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem, showing the laying on of 

hands to cause the performers to stop 289 

49. Group of Men examining the Churinga 291 

50. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa 292 

51. Ceremony of the Plum Tree Totem : the performer is supposed 

to be eating plums 293 

52. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Eagle-Hawk Totem 295 

53. Ceremony of Unjiamba Totem of Ooraminna 297 

54. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem of Arapera, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 299 

55. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem of Quiurnpa, 

to illustrate one form of Nurtunja 301 

56. Ceremony of the large Lizard Totem : the two undecorated 

men represent Thippa - thippa Men who changed into 
Birds 305 

57. Ceremony of the Water Totem, showing how the Waninga is 

carried 307 

58. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Grass Seed Totem, to illustrate 

one form of Nurtunja 311 

59. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem of Quiurnpa. 

The man sitting down wears a special form of Nurtunja on his 
head 314 

60. Ceremony of the Fish Totem of Uratinga on the Finke River . 317 




6i. Ceremony of the Iniakuia Totem of Umbanjun, the decorated 

feathers on the head represent the flowerinj; Irriakura . . . 319 

62. Ceremony of the Irriakura Totem of Oknirchumpatana. The 

performer sits in front of a series of tufts of feathers fixed in 
the ground 321 

63. Ceremony of an Ant Totem of Alkniwukulla, to illustrate one form 

of Nurtunja ; the lines of down represent roots of wattle trees, 
amongst which the women dig for ants ; the performers repre- 
sent women 325 

64. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem, to illustrate one 

form of X urtunja ; the small cross pieces represent pointing sticks 327 

65. Ceremony representing two Oruncha of Kulparra 330 

66. Ceremony of the Oruncha of Chauritchi 332 

67. An Oruncha Ceremony : the performers coming on to the ground 333 

68. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem of Apera-na-Un- 

kumna, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja 335 

69. The Erathipa Stone, showing the hole through which the Spirit 

Children emerge, and the charcoal line painted above it . . . 337 

70. Ceremony of the Opossum Totem of Arimurla, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 339 

71. Ceremony of the Opossum Totem of Arinuula, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 340 

72. Preparing for a Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda . . . 342 

73. Ceremony of the Enui Totem ; the head-dress represents the 

neck and head of an Emu 343 

74. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda 345 

75. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda 346 

76. The Women throwing fire over the Illpongwurra 349 

T]. The Illpongwurra lying down with their heads on the Parra, 

behind which are stacked the bushes which they carry when 
returning to camp 353 

78. Uance of the Illpongwurra round the performers of a ceremony : 

this running round is called Wahkutnima 355 

79. Preparing the fire for the Illpongwurra 357 

80. Ingwurninga Inkinja Ceremony of the Emu Totem of Imanda . 359 

81. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 361 

82. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 363 

83. Ambilyerikirra Ceremony 367 



84. The erection of the Sacred Pole, or Kauaua ; the man who has 

chmbed up is arranging the Churinga 371 

85. The Illpongwurra on the fire 373 

86. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of I manda 375 

87. Totemic Designs painted on the backs of the Illpongwurra . . 377 

88. The Illpongwurra gathered round the Kauaua 379 

89. Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence ; touching the 

mouths of the younger men with a sacred object 383 

90. Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence ; touching the 

mouth of the younger man with a fragment of the food pre- 
sented by him to the older man 385 

91. Rocks at Quiurnpa which arose to mark the spot where the Ill- 

pongwurra were burnt during the Engwura 391 

92. The Xanja rock of Kukaitcha, the leader of the Ulpmerka men 

of the Plum Tree Totem at Quiurnpa 393 

93. Emily Gap from the South side 426 

94. Emily Gap from the North side 427 

95. Ceremony of the White Bat Totem concerned with Cannibalism 474 

96. Emu Feather Shoes worn by the Kurdaitcha 479 

97. Kurdaitcha creeping up to his enemy 482 

98. Illapurinja Woman 487 

99. Tree Burial in the Warramunga Tribe 499 

100. Widow smeared with Kaolin and wearing the Chimurilia . . . 501 
loi. Chimurilia, fur string bands and feathers worn by the Widow 

during the Urpmilchima Ceremony at the Grave 305 

102. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba (Hakea Tree) Totem 

of Urthipita, showing the Umbalinyara Cross 318 

103. Iruntarinia Ceremony concerned with two Gruncha of Atnur- 

tinya Kinya 520 

104. Medicine Man showing the hole made in his tongue 524 

105. ^Medicine Man made by the Oruncha, with the Oruncha Marilla, 

or design of the Oruncha 527 

106. Various forms of Implements of Magic used amongst the Central 

Tribes 535 

107. Drawing intended to represent a Woman lying on her back . 549 

108. Ceremony of the Sun Totem of Ilparlinja , 563 

109. Clothing and Personal Ornaments 569 

1 10. Personal Ornaments 571 

I loA. Various forms of Spear-heads 576 

111. Spear-throwers 579 



12. Constmclion of the Tassel or Fringe of the Nulliga 580 

13. Attachment of the Tassel to the Nulliga 580 

14. Fire making, by means of rubbing the edge of a Spear-thrower 

on a Shield 584 

15. Shields 585 

16. Shields 585 

17. Stone Axes and Kni\cs 589 

18. Hoomerangs 597 

i8a. Ornamentation of large IJoomerangs . . 598 

i8n. Fighting Clubs 603 

19. Various Implements 605 

20. Pitchis 609 

21. Pitchis 609 

22. Structure of the .String Bag 612 

23. Arunta Native using Spindle for making f^ur-string 613 

24. Native Rock Paintings To face page 615 

25. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations 619 

26. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations 619 

27. Arunta Natives, decorated for the Erkita Corrobboree .... 620 

28. Decorations used during a Rain Dance or Corrobboree, .•\runta 

Tribe 621 

29. Old Man instructing I5oys how to perform a Corrobboree . . 622 

30. Preparing for the Erkita Corrobboree, Arunta Tribe 623 

31. Churingia Ilkinia or Sacred Rock Drawing of a (iroup of the 

Honey Ant Totem in the Warramunga Tribe . To face page 631 

32. Churinga Ilkinia of the Udnirringita Totem drawn on the 

Rocks at the Emily Gorge To face page 632 

l"}^. Churinga Ilkinia of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem, 

drawn on the Rocks at Quiurnpa To face page 632 


1. Outline Maj) of the Central Area of Australia showing the 

tracks followed by the four groups of Achilpa and the spots 

at which they camped To face page 387 

2. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia in the region of 

the MacDonnell Range, showing the tracks followed by the 
various groups of Udnirringita and of Emu men, together 
with the spots at which they camped, and other localities 

concerned with traditions To face page 423 





Page 570, line 9 from bottom, /^^ ;; public tassel," read, 
^ " pubic tassel. 

speaking, is not less than 700 miles in length from north to 
south, and stretches out east and west of the transcontinental 
telegraph line, covering an unknown extent of country in 
either direction. The nature of the countr}- varies much in 
different parts of this large area ; at Lake Eyre, in the south, 
it is actually below sea-level. As we travel northwards for 
between 300 and 400 miles, the land gradually rises until it 
reaches an elevation of 2,000 feet ; and to this southern part of 
the country the name of the Lower Steppes may appro- 
priately be given. Northwards from this lies an elevated 
plateau forming the Higher Steppes, the southern limit of 
which is roughly outlined by the James and Macdonnell 


nc. PAGE 

12. Construction of the Tassel or Fringe of the Nulliga 580 

13. Attachment of the Tassel to the Nulliga 580 

14. Fire making, by means of rubbing tlie edge of a Spear-thrower 

on a Shield 584 

15. Shields 585 

16. Shields 585 

17. Stone Axes and Kni\es 589 

18. Boomerangs 597 

i8.v. Ornamentation of large Boomerangs 598 

i8c. Fighting Clubs 603 

19. Various Implements 605 

20. Pitchis 609 

21. Pitchis 609 

22. .Structure of the String Bag 612 

23. Arunta Native using Spindle for making Fur-string 613 

24. Native Rock Paintings To face poi^^c 615 

25. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations 619 

drawn on the Rocks at Quiurnpa To face pa<^c 632 


1. Outline Maj) of the Central Area of Australia showing the 

tracks followed by the four groups of Achilpa and the spots 

at which they camped To face page 387 

2. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia in the region of 

the MacDonnell Range, showing the tracks followed by the 
various groups of Udnirringita and of Emu men, together 
with the spots at which they camped, and other localities 
concerned with traditions To face page 423 



Nature of the country occupied by the natives — Distribution of the natives in 
local groups — Names given to the local groups — Local Totemic groups — The 
Alatunja or head man of each group and his powers — The position of Alatunja 
a hereditarj' one — Strong influence of custom — Possibility of introduction of 
changes in regard to custom — Councils of old men — Medicine men — Life in 
camp — Hunting customs — Food and method of cooking — Tracking powers — 
Counting and reckoning of time — General account of the more common 
weapons and implements — Clothing — Fighting — Local Totemic groups — 
Variation in customs amongst different Australian tribes — Personal appear- 
ance of the natives — Cicatrices — Measurements of the body — Moral character — 
Infanticide — Twins — Dread of evil magic. 

The native tribes with which we are dealing occup\- an 
area in the centre of the AustraHan continent which, roughly 
speaking, is not less than 700 miles in length from north to 
south, and stretches out east and west of the transcontinental 
telegraph line, covering an unknown extent of country in 
either direction. The nature of the country varies much in 
different parts of this large area ; at Lake E}-re, in the south, 
it is actually below sea-level. As we travel northwards for 
between 300 and 400 miles, the land gradually rises until it 
reaches an elevation of 2,000 feet ; and to this southern part of 
the country the name of the Lower Steppes may appro- 
priately be given. Northwards from this lies an elevated 
plateau forming the Higher Steppes, the southern limit of 
which is roughly outlined by the James and Macdonncll 



ranges, which run across from east to west for a distance of 
400 miles. 

The rivers which rise in the Higher Steppes find their way 
to the south, passing through deep gaps in the mountain 
ranges and then meandering slowly across the Lower Steppes 
until they dwindle away and are lost amongst the southern 
sand)' flats, or perhaps reach the great depressed area centreing 
in the salt bed of Lake E}-re. 

Away to the south and west of this steppe land lies a vast 
area of true desert region, crossed by no river courses, but 
with mile after mile of monotonous sand-hills covered with 
porcupine grass, or with long stretches of country where thick 
belts of almost impenetrable mulga scrub stretch across. 

We may first of all briefly outline, as follows, the nature of 
the country occupied by the tribes with which we are dealing. 
At the present day the transcontinental railway line, after 
running along close by the southern edge of Lake Eyre, lands 
the traveller at a small township called Oodnadatta, which is 
the present northern terminus of the line, and lies about 
680 miles to the north of Adelaide. Beyond this transit is by 
horse or camel ; and right across the centre of the continent 
runs a track following closely the course of the single wire 
which serves to maintain, as yet, the only telegraphic com- 
munication between Australia and Europe. From Oodnadatta 
to Charlotte Waters stretches a long succession of gibber 1 
plains, where, mile after mile, the ground is covered with 
brown and purple stones, often set close together as if they 
formed a tesselated pavement stretching away to the horizon. 
They are formed by the disintegration of a thin stratum of 
rock, called the Desert Sandstone, which forms the horizontal 
capping of low terraced hills, from which every here and there 
a dry watercourse, fringed with a thin belt of mulga-trees, 
comes down on to the plain across which it meanders for 
a few miles and then dies awa)-. 

The only streams of any importance in this part of the 
country are the Alberga, Stevenson, and Hamilton, which run 

^ Gibber is an alwriginal word meaning a rock or stone. The word is probably 
derived originally from a Queensland dialect, but is now used by white men in 
many jiarts. Gibher-gutiyah is an aboriginal cave dwelling or rock-shelter. 

L. '■ 
^Ftome\ SOUTH 


// n/ker &■ Hoiilallsc. 


B 2 


across from the west and unite to form the Macumba Ri\cr, 
which in times of flood empties itself into Lake Eyre. It is 
only very rarel\- that the rainfall is sufficient to fill the beds of 
these three streams ; as a general rule a local flood occurs in 
one or other of them, but on rare occasions a widely dis- 
tributed rainfall may fill the creeks and also the Finke river, 
which flows south from the Macdonnell range, which lies awa}' 
to the north. When such a flood does occur — and this only 
takes place at long and irregular intervals of time — then the 
ordinar}' river beds are not deep enough to hold the body 
of water descending from the various ranges in which the 
tributar)- streams take their rise. Under these conditions the 
flood waters spread far and wide over the low-lying lands 
around the river courses. Down the river beds the water 
sweeps along, bearing with it uprooted trees and great masses 
of debris, and carving out for itself new channels. Against 
opposing obstacles the flood wrack is piled up in heaps — in fact, 
for months afterwards debris amongst the branches of trees 
growing in and about the watercourses indicates the height 
reached by the flood. WHiat has been for often many months 
dry and parched-up land is suddenly transformed into a vast 
sheet of water. It is only however a matter of a very short 
time ; the rainfall ceases and rapidly the water sinks. For a 
few days the creeks will run, but soon the surface flow 
and only the scattered deeper holes retain the water. The 
sun once more shines hotly, and in the damp ground .seeds 
which have lain dormant for months germinate, and, as if b}' 
magic, the once arid land becomes covered with luxuriant 
herbage. Birds, frogs, li/.ards and insects of all kinds can be 
seen and heard where before everything was parched and 
silent. Plants and animals alike make the most of the brief 
time in which they can grow and reproduce, and with them it 
is simply a of a keen struggle, not so much against living 
enemies, as against their jDhysical environment. If a plant can, 
for example, before all the surface moisture is exhausted, grow 
to such a size that its roots can penetrate to a considerable 
distance below the surface to where the sandy soil remains 
cool, then it has a chance of surviving ; if not, it must jjcrish. 
In just the same way amongst animals, those which can grow 


rapidly, and so can, as in the case of the frogs, reach a stage 
at which they are able to burrow while the banks of the 
waterhole in which the\' live are damp, will survive. 

It is difficult to realise without having seen it the contrast 
between the Steppe lands of Australia in dry and rainy 
seasons. In the former the scene is one of desolation ; the 
sun shines down hotly on stony plains or yellow sandy 
ground, on which grow wir\' shrubs and small tussocks of 
grass, not closeh' set together, as in moister country, but 
separated from one another, so that in any patch of ground 
the number of individual plants can be counted. The sharp, 
thin shadows of the wiry scrub fall on the yellow ground, 
which shows no sign of animal life except for the little ant- 
hills, thousands of whose occupants are engaged in rushing 
about in apparentl}' hopeless confusion, or piling leaves or 
seeds in regular order around the entrance to their burrows. 
A " desert oak " ^ or an acacia-tree ma\' now and then afford 
a scanty shade, but for weeks together no clouds hide the 
brightness of the sun b}" day or of the stars by night. 

Amongst the ranges which rise from the Higher Steppes 
the scenery is of a ver}' different nature. Here, wild and 
rugged quartzite ranges, from which at intervals rise great 
rounded bluffs or sharp!}- outlined peaks, reaching in some 
instances a height of 5,000 feet, run roughly parallel to one 
another, east and west, for between 300 and 400 miles. These 
ridges are separated from one another b}* vallej-s, varying in 
width from 200 or 300 }-ards to twenty miles, where the soil is 
hard and yellow and the scrub which thinly co\'ers it is just 
like that of the Lower Steppes. The river courses run 
approximately north and south, and, as the watershed lies 
to the north of the main ranges, the}' have to cut at right 
angles across the latter. This they do in gorges, which are 
often deep and narrow. Some of them, except at flood times, 
are dry and afford the onh' means of traversing the ranges ; 
others are constantly filled with water which, sheltered from 
the heat of the sun, remains in the dark waterholes when 

^ The tree to which this most inappropriate name has been given is Casiiarina 
Decaisneana : it may reach a height of thirty or forty feet and is often found 
growing, as its popular name impHes, in sterile, desert countr)-. 


elsewhere the watercourses are quite dr\'. The scenery 
amongst the ranges is by no means devoid of beaut)-. The 
rugged red rocks, with here and there patches of pines or 
cycads, or stray gum-trees with pure white trunks, stand out 
sharply against the clear sky. In the gorges the rocks rise 
abruptly from the sides of the waterpools, leaving often only a 
thin strip of blue sky visible overhead. In some cases the 
gorge will run for half a mile across the range like a zigzag 
cleft not more than ten or twelve feet wide. 

In addition to the Steppe lands there lies away to the south 
and west the true desert country where there are no water- 
courses other than the very insignificant ones which run for at 
most a mile or two across the sandy flats which surround the 
base of isolated hills such as Mount Olga or Ayers Rock. In 
this region the only water is to be found in rock holes on the 
bare hills which every now and then rise out above the sand- 
hills and the mulga-covered flats. Nothing could be more 
dreary than this country ; there is simply a long succession of 
sand-hills covered with tussocks of porcupine grass, the leaves 
of which resemble knitting-needles radiating from a huge pin- 
cushion, or, where the sand-hills die down, there is a flat stretch 
of hard plain country, with sometimes belts of desert oaks, 
or, more often, dreary mulga scrub. In this desert country 
there is not much game ; small rats and lizards can be found, and 
these the native catches by setting fire to the porcupine grass 
and so driving them from one tussock to another ; but he must 
often find it no easy matter to secure food enough to live 
upon. In times of drought, which very frequently occur, the 
life of these sand-hill blacks must be a hard one. Every now 
and then there are found, right in the heart of the sand-hills, 
small patches of limestone, in each of which is a deep pit- 
like excavation, at the bottom of which there may or may 
not be a little pool of water, though such " native wells," 
as they are called, are of rare occurrence and are the remnants 
of old mound springs. More likeh' than not, the little water 
which one does contain is foul with the decaying carcase of a 
dingo which has ventured down for a drink and has been too 
weak to clamber out again. The most characteristic feature of 
the desert countr\-, next to the sand-hills, arc the remains of 


what have once been lakes, but are now simply level plains of 
glistening white salt, hemmed in with low hills covered with 
dreary scrub. Around these there is no sign of life, and the 
most perfect silence reigns. 

Such is the general nature of the great area of Steppe and 
desert land inhabited by the Central x-\ustralian natives. In 
times of long-continued drought, when food and water ^ are 
both scarce, he has to suffer privation ; but under ordinary 
circumstances, except in the desert countr)', where it can 
never be very pleasant, his life is b\' no means a miserable or 
a very hard one. Kangaroo, rock-wallabies, emus, and other 
forms of game are not scarce, and often fall a prey to his 
spear and boomerang, while smaller animals, such as rats 
and lizards, are constantly caught without any difficulty by 
the women, who also secure large quantities of grass seeds 
and tubers, and, when they are in season, fruits, such as that 
of the quandong or native plum. 

Each of the various tribes speaks a distinct dialect, and 
regards itself as the possessor of the countr\- in which it 
lives. In the more southern parts, where they have been 
long in contact with the white man, not only have their 
numbers diminished rapidh", but the natives who still remain 
are but poor representatives of their race, having lost all or 
nearly all of their old customs and traditions. With the 
spread of the white man it can only be a matter of compara- 
tively a few years before the same fate will befall the remain- 
ing tribes, which are as yet fortunately too far removed from 
white settlements of any size to have become degraded. 
However kindly disposed the white settler may be, his 
advent at once and of necessity introduces a disturbing 
element into the environment of the native, and from that 
moment degeneration sets in, no matter how friendly may 
be the relations between the Aborigine and the new-comers. 
The chance of securing cast-off clothing, food, tobacco, and 
perhaps also knives and tomahawks, in return for services 

^ The native from long practice is able to secure water from such sources as tree 
roots in spots where an inexperienced white man would perish from thirst. An in- 
teresting account of this matter has been given by Mr. T. A. Magarey, in a paper 
entitled " Aboriginal Water Quest," ))ublished in the Report of the Aiist. Ass. Adv 
Set., vol. vi. , 1895, p. 647. 


rendered to the settler, at once attracts the nati\e into 
the vicinit)' of any settlement however small. The young 
men, under the new influence, become freed from the 
wholesome restraint of the older men, who are all-power- 
ful in the normal condition of the tribe. The strict moral 
code, which is certainh' enforced in their natural state, is set 
on one side, and nothing is adopted in place of it. The old 
men see with sorrow that the younger ones do not care for 
the time-honoured traditions of their fathers, and refuse to 
hand them on to successors who, according to their ideas, 
are not worthy to be trusted with them ; vice, disease, and 
difficulty in securing the natural food, which is driven away 
by the settlers, rapidly diminish their numbers, and when the 
remnant of the tribe is gathered into some mission station, 
under conditions as far removed as they can well be from 
their natural ones, it is too late to learn anything of the 
customs which once governed tribal life. 

Fortunately from this point of view the interior of the con- 
tinent is not easily accessible, or rather its climate is too dry 
and the water supply too meagre and untrustworthy, to admit 
as yet of rapid settlement, and therefore the natives, in many 
parts, are practically still left to wander over the land which 
the white man does not venture to inhabit, and amongst them 
may still be found tribes holding firmly to the beliefs and 
customs of their ancestors. 

If now we take the Arunta tribe as an examj^le, we find 
that the natives are distributed in a large number of small 
local groups, each of which occupies, and is supposed to 
possess, a given area of countr)-, the boundaries of which are 
well known to the natives. In speaking of themselves, the 
natives will refer to these local groups by the name of the 
locality which each of them inhabits. Thus, for examj^le, 
the natives living at Idracowra, as the white men call it, will 
be called crtwa Iturkawura opmira, which means men of the 
Iturkawura camp ; those living at Henbury on the Finke 
will be called erti<.<a Waiugakauia opmira, which means men 
of the Waingakama (Henbury) camp. Often also a number 
of .separate groups occup}-ing a larger district will be spoken 
of collectively by one name, as, for example, the groups living 
along the Finke River arc often spoken of as Larapinta men, 


from the native name of the river. In addition to this the 
natives speak of different divisions of the tribe according to 
the direction of the country which they occupy. Thus the 
east side is called Ikuiira anibianya, the west side Aldorla 
ambianya, the south-west Atitikera ainbianya, the north side 
Yirira anibianya, the south-east side Urleiva avibianya. 
Ertwa ikimra anibianya is applied to men living on the east, 
and so on. 

Still further examination of each local group reveals the 
fact that it is composed largely, but not entirely, of indi- 
viduals who describe themselves by the name of some one 
animal or plant. Thus there will be one area which belongs 
to a group of men who call themselves kangaroo men, another 
belonging to emu men, another to Hakea flower men, and so 
on, almost every animal and plant which is found in the 
country having its representative amongst the human in- 
habitants. The area of countr}^ which is occupied by each 
of these, which will be spoken of as local Totemic groups, 
varies to a considerable extent, but is never ver}' large, the 
most extensive one with which w^e are acquainted being that 
of the witchetty grub people of the Alice Springs district. 
This group at the present time is represented by exactly 
forty individuals (men, women, and children), and the area 
of which they are recognised as the proprietors extends over 
about lOO square miles. In contrast to this, one particular 
group of " plum-tree " people is only, at the present day, repre- 
sented by one solitar\' individual, and he is the proprietor of 
only a few square miles. 

With these local groups we shall subsequently deal in 
detail, all that need be added here in regard to them is that 
groups of the same designation are found in many parts of 
the district occupied by the tribe. For example, there are 
various local groups of kangaroo people, and each one of 
these groups has its head man or, as the natives themselves 
call him, its Alatunja.^ However small in numbers a local 
group may be it always has its Alatunja. 

^ In different parts of the tribe he is known by different names : in the north he 
is called Alatunja, in the west Chichurta, at Hermannsburg on the Finke River 
Inkata or Inkatinja, and in the north-east Chanlchwa. 


Within the narrow limits of his own group the local head 
man or Alatunja takes the lead ; outside of his group no head 
man has of necessit\' any special power. If he has any gener- 
ally-recognised authorit}-, as some of them undoubtedl) have, 
this is due to the fact that he is either the head of a numeri- 
cally important group or is himself famous for his skill in 
hunting or fighting, or for his knowledge of the ancient 
traditions and customs of the tribe. Old age does not by 
itself confer distinction, but only when combined with special 
abilit}-. There is no such thing as a chief of the tribe, nor 
indeed is there any individual to whom the term chief can be 

The authorit)' which is wielded by an Alatunja is of a 
somewhat vague nature. He has no definite power over the 
persons of the individuals who are members of his group. 
He it is who calls together the elder men, who alwa\'s con- 
sult concerning an}- important business, such as the holding 
of sacred ceremonies or the punishment of indi\iduals who 
have broken tribal custom, and his opinion carries an ainount 
of weight which depends uj^on his rej)utation. He is not of 
necessit}' recognised as the most imj^ortant member of the 
council whose judgment must be followed, though, if he be 
old and distinguished, then he will have great influence. 
Perhaps the best way of expressing the matter is to say that 
the Alatunja has, cx-officio, a position which, if he be a man 
of personal ability, but only in that case, enables him to 
wield considerable power not only over the members of his 
own group, but over those of neighbouring groups whose 
head men are inferior in personal ability to himself. 

The Alatunja is not chosen for the position because of his 
ability ; the post is one which, within certain limits, is here- 
ditary, passing from father to son, always provided that the 
man is of the proper designation — that is, for example, in a 
kangaroo group the Alatunja must of necessity be a kangaroo 
man. To take the Alice Springs group as an example, the 
holder of the office must be a witchett}' grub man, and he 
must also be old enough to be considered capable of taking 
the lead in certain ceremonies, and must of necessity be a 
fully initiated man. The present Alatunja inherited the post 


from his father, who had previously inherited it from his 
father. The present holder has no son who is yet old enough 
to be an Alatunja, so that if he were to die within the course of 
the next two or three years his brother would hold the position, 
which would, however, on the death of this brother, revert to 
the present holder's son. It of course occasionally happens 
that the Alatunja has no son to succeed him, in which case he 
will before dying nominate the individual whom he desires to 
succeed him, who will alwa\-s be either a brother or a brother's 
son. The Alatunjaship always descends in the male line, and 
we are not aware of an}-thing which can be regarded as the 
precise equivalent of this position in other Australian tribes, 
a fact which is to be associated with the strong development 
of the local groups in this part of the continent. 

The most important function of the Alatunja is to take 
charge of what we may call the sacred store-house, which has 
usually the form of a cleft in some rocky range, or a special 
hole in the ground, in which, concealed from view, are kept 
the sacred objects of the group. Near to this store-house, 
which is called an Ertnatulunga, no woman, child, or uninitiated 
man dares venture on pain of death. 

At intervals of time, and when determined upon by the 
Alatunja, the members of the group perform a special ceremony, 
called Iniic/nituia, which will be described later on in detail, 
and the object of which is to increase the supply of the animal 
or plant bearing the name of the particular group which per- 
forms the ceremon}-. Each group has an Iiitidiiuuia of its 
own, which can only be taken part in by initiated men bearing 
the group name. In the performance of this ceremon\- the 
Alatunja takes the leading part ; he it is who decides when it 
is to be performed, and during the celebration the proceedings 
are carried out under his direction, though he has, while con- 
ducting them, to follow out strictly the customs of his 

As amongst all savage tribes the Australian native is bound 
hand and foot by custom. What his fathers did before him 
that he must do. If during the performance of a ceremony 
his ancestors painted a white line across the forehead, that 
line he must paint. An}- infringement of custom, within 


certain limitations, is \isited with sure and often severe punish- 
ment. At the same time, rigidl}- conservative as the native 
is, it is yet possible for changes to be introduced. We have 
already pointed out that there are certain men who are 
especially respected for their abilitx', and, after \\atching large 
numbers of the tribe, at a time when they were assembled 
together for months to perform certain of their most sacred 
ceremonies, we have come to the conclusion that at a time 
such as this, when the older and more powerful men from 
various groups are met together, and when day by day and 
night by night arounrl their camp fires they discuss matters of 
tribal interest, it is quite possible for changes of custom to be 
introduced. At the present moment, for example, an im- 
portant change in tribal organisation is gradually spreading 
through the tribe from north to south. Every now and then 
a man arises of superior abilit}' to his fellows. When large 
numbers of the tribe are gathered together — at least it was so 
on the special occasion to which we allude — one or two of the 
older men are at once seen to wield a special influence over 
the others. Ever\thing, as we have before said, does not 
depend upon age. At this gathering, for example, some of 
the oldest men were of no account ; but, on the other hand, 
others not so old as they were, but more learned in ancient 
lore or more skilled in matters of magic, were looked up to by 
the others, and they it was who settled everything. It must, 
however, be understood that we ha\e no definite proof to 
bring forward of the actual introduction b)' this means of any 
fundamental change of custom. The only thing that we can 
say is that, after carefull}- watching the natives during the 
performance of their ceremonies and endeavouring as best we 
could to enter into their feelings, to think as the}' did, and to 
become for the time being one of themselves, we came to the 
conclusion that if one or two of the most powerful men .settled 
upon the acKisability of introducing some change, even an 
important one, it would be quite possible for this to be agreed 
ujion and carried out. That changes have been introduced, 
in fact, are still being introduced, is a matter of certaint}' ; the 
difficulty to be explained is, how in face of the rigid con- 
servatism of the native, which ma\' be said to be one of his 


leading features, such changes can possibl}' e\en be mooted. 
The only jDossible chance is by means of the old men, and, in 
the case of the Arunta people, amongst whom the local feeling 
is very strong, they have opportunities of a special nature. 
Without belonging to the same group, men who inhabit 
localities close to one another are more closely associated than 
men living at a distance from one another, and, as a matter of 
fact, this local bond is strongly marked — indeed so marked 
was it during the performance of their sacred ceremonies that 
we constantly found it necessary to use the term " local re- 
lationship." Groups which are contiguous local))' are con- 
stantl\- meeting to perform ceremonies ; and among the 
Alatunjas who thus come together and direct proceedings 
there is perfectly' sure, every now and again, to be one who 
stands pre-eminent by reason of superior abilit)-, and to him, 
especialh" on an occasion such as this, great respect is always 
paid. It would be b)- no means impossible for him to pro- 
pose to the other older men the introduction of a change, 
which, after discussing it, the Alatunjas of the local groups 
gathered together might come to the conclusion was a good 
one, and, if the)' did so, then it would be adopted in that 
district. After a time a still larger meeting of the tribe, with 
head men from a still wider area — a meeting such as the 
Engwura, which is described in the following pages — might 
be held. At this the change locall)- introduced would, with- 
out fail, be discussed. The man who first started it would 
certainly have the support of his local friends, provided they 
had in the first instance agreed upon the advisability of its 
introduction, and not only this, but the chances are that he 
would have the support of the head men of other local groups 
of the same designation as his own. K\er)-thing would, in 
fact, depend upon the status of the original proposer of the 
change ; but, granted the e.xistence of a man with sufficient 
abilit)' to think out the details of an)' change, then, owing 
parti)' to the strong development of the local feeling, and 
parti)' to the feeling of kinship between groups of the same 
designation, wherever their local habitation may be, it seems 
quite possible that the markedl)' conservative tendcnc)- of the 
natives in regard to customs handed down to them from their 


ancestors ma\' every now and then be overcome, and some 
change, even a radical one, be introduced. The traditions of 
the tribe indicate, it may be noticed, their recognition of the 
fact that customs have varied from time to time. They have, 
for example, traditions dealing with supposed ancestors, some 
of whom introduced, and others of whom changed, the method 
of initiation. Tradition also indicates ancestors belonging to 
particular local groups who changed an older into the present 
marriage SN'stem, and these traditions all deal with special 
powerful individuals by whom the changes were introduced. 
It has been stated by writers such as ^Ir. Curr "that the power 
which enforces custom in our tribes is for the most part an 
impersonal one."^ Undoubtedh- public opinion and the feel- 
ing that any violation of tribal custom will bring down upon 
the guilty person the ridicule and opprobrium of his fellows 
is a strong, indeed a very strong, influence ; but at the same 
time there is in the tribes with which we are personally ac- 
quainted something beyond this. Should any man break 
through the strict marriage laws, it is not onh* an " impersonal 
power " which he has to deal with. The head men of the 
group or groups concerned consult together with the elder 
'men, and, if the offender, after long consultation, be adjudged 
guilty and the determination be arrived at that he is to be 
put to death — a by no means purely h}'pothetical case — then 
the same elder men make arrangements to carr}- the sentence 
out, and a party, which is called an " ininja',' is organised for 
the purpose. The offending native is perfectly well aware that 
he will be dealt with by something much more real than an 
"impersonal power." - 

In addition to the Alatunja, there are two other classes of 
men \\\\o are regarded as of especial importance ; these are 
the so-called " medicine men," and in the second place the 
men who are supposed to have a special power of communi- 
cating with the Iruntarinia or spirits associated with the 
tribe. Needless to say there are grades of skill recognised 

^ The Australian Rate, vol. i. p. 52. 

- This .subject has already been dealt with by Mr. Howitt in his paper on the 
organisation of the Australian tribes, Trans. R. S. Victoria, 1889, p. 108, and 
our experience undoubtedly corroborates his opinion. 


amongst the members of these two classes, in much the same 
way as we recognise differences of abihty amongst members 
of the mecHcal profession. In subsequent chapters we shall 
deal in detail with these three sjiecial t\'pes ; meanwhile in 
this general rcsniiic it is sufficient to note that they have 
a definite standing and are regarded as, in certain ways, 
superior to the other men of the tribe. It ma}', howexer, be 
pointed out that, while every group has its Alatunja, there is 
no necessity for each to have either a medicine or an Irun- 
tarinia man, and that in regard to the position of the latter 
there is no such thing as hereditary succession. 

Turning again to the group, we find that the members of 
this wander, perhaps in small parties of one or two families, 
often, for example, two or more brothers with their wives and 
children, over the land which they own, camping at favourite 
spots where the presence of waterholes, with their accompani- 
ment of vegetable and animal fcjod, enables them to supply 
their wants.^ 

In their ordinary condition the natixcs are almost completely 
naked, which is all the more strange as kangaroo and wallaby 
are not by any means scarce, and one would think that their 
fur would be of no little use and comfort in the winter time, 
when, under the perfectl}' clear sk\-, which often remains 
cloudless for weeks together, the radiation is so^great that at 

^ It has been stated that when out in the bush the natives communicate with 
one another l)y means of smoke signals, and in a remarkable paper by Mr. T. A. 
Magarey, published in the Report of the Aust. Ass. AdzK Set., vol. v., 1893, p. 498, 
a long account is given of various smoke signal codes which are stated by the author 
to be in use amongst the tribes with whom we have come in contact. Mr. Magarey 
states in regard to this matter that " the greatest obstacle in the way of obtaining 
the information required is the proud racial reticence of the natives themselves." 
It may be that we have not succeeded in overcoming this, but we venture to say 
that Mr. Magarey is entirely wrong in the statements made concerning the Central 
natives. We do not mean to say that they never make smoke signals, but that 
they are always of a ver)' simple nature, that on each occasion when made they 
are only understood when they have been agreed upon before for use on the special 
occasion, and that in these tril^es, amongst whom we have had special opportunities 
for acquiring information, there is no set code of any kind. What Mr. Roth says 
in regard to the native tribes of Central Queensland is e.\actly applicable to the 
Central Australian tribes generally, and that is, " It would appear that no special 
information can be conveyed by these smoke signals beyond the actual presence 
there of the person or persons making them." .After careful investigation we can 
fully corroliorate Mr. Roth so far as the .Arunta tribe is concerned. 



night-time the temperature falls several degrees below freezing 
point. The idea of making an}- kind of clothing as a protec- 
tion against cold does not appear to have entered the native 
mind, though he is keen enough upon securing the Govern- 
ment blanket when he can get one, or, in fact, any stray- 
cast-off clothing of the white man. The latter is however 
worn as much from motives of vanity as from a desire for 
warmth ; a lubra with nothing on except an ancient straw- 
hat and an old pair of boots is perfect!}- happy. The very 


kindness of the white man who supplies him, in outh-ing 
parts, with stray bits of clothing is by no means conducive to 
the longevity of the native. If you give a black fellow, sa}' a 
woollen shirt, he will perhaps wear it for a da}- or two, after 
that his wife will be adorned with it, and then, in return for 
perhaps a little food, it will be passed on to a friend. The 
natural result is that, no sooner do the natives come into 
contact with white men, than phthisis and other diseases soon 
make their appearance, and, after a comparatively short time, 




all that can be done is to <^ather the few remnants of the 
tribe into some mission station where the path to final 
extinction may be made as pleasant as possible. 

If, now, the reader can imagine himself transported to the 
side of some waterhole in the centre of Australia, he would 
probably find amongst the scrub and gum-trees surrounding 
it a small camp of natives. Each family, consisting of a man 
and one or more wives and children, accompanied always b)' 
dogs,^ occupies a mia-uiia, which is merely a lean-to of shrubs 
so placed as to shield the occupants from the prevailing wind, 
which, if it be during the winter months, is sure to be from 

ii<;. 4. — si'KAK niKow iNc;. 

the south-east. In front of this, or inside if the weather be 
cold, will be a small fire of twigs, for the black fellow never 
makes a large fire as the white man does. In this respect 
he certainly regards the latter as a strange being, who makes 
a big fire and then finds it so hot that he cannot go an}-where 
near to it. The black fellow's idea is to make a small fire such 
that he can lie coiled round it and. during the night, sujDply it 

^ The dingo is the only animal which the native has attempted to domesticate. 
At the jircsenl time the introduced dog lias supplanted the dingo, and all over 
Australia mongrels of all imaginable kinds are seen in scores in every native camp, 
a,s no dog is ever killed. 



with small twigs so that he can keep it alight without making 
it so hot that he must go further awa\-. 

Early in the morning, if it be summer, and not until the 
sun be well up if it be winter, the occupants of the camp are 
astir. Time is no object to them, and, if there be no lack 
of food, the men and women all lounge about while the 
children laugh and play. If food be required, then the women 
will go out accompanied by the children and armed with 
digging sticks and pitchis} and the da\- will be spent out 


in the bush in search of small burrowing animals such as 
lizards and small marsupials. The men will perhaps set off 
armed with spears, spear-throwers, boomerangs and shields in 
search of larger game such as emus and kangaroos. The 
latter are secured by stalking, when the native graduall\- 
approaches his prey with perfectly noiseless footsteps. Keep- 
ing a sharp watch on the animal, he remains absolutely still, if 
it should turn its head, until once more it resumes its feeding. 
Gradually, availing himself of the shelter of any bush or 
large tussock of grass, he approaches near enough to throw 
^ Wooden troughs used for carrj-ing food and water. 

C 2 


his spear. The end is fixed into the jjoint of the spear- 
thrower, and, aided by the leverat^e thus gained, he throws it 
forward with all his strength. Different men vary much in 
their skill in spear-throwing, but it takes an exceptionally 
good man to kill or disable at more than twenty \-ards. 
Sometimes two or three men will hunt in compan\-, and then, 
while one remains in ambush, the others combine to drive the 
animals as close as possible to him. Euros ^ are mt^re easily 
caught than kangaroos, owing to the fact that the}- inhabit 
hilly and scrub countr)-, across which the\' make " pads," b\- 
the side of which men will lie in ambush while parties of 
women go out and drive the animals towards them. On the 
ranges the rock-wallabies have definite runs, and close by 
one of these a native will sit patiently, waiting hour by hour, 
until some unfortunate beast comes by. 

In some ]:)arts the leaves of the pituri j^lant (Diibotsia Hop- 
^voodii) are used to stupefy the emu. The plan ado])ted is to 
make a decoction in some small waterhole at which the animal 
is accustomed to drink. There, hidden b}' some bush, the 
native lies quietly in wait. After drinking the water the bird 
becomes stupefied, and easily falls a prey to the black fellow's 
spear. Sometimes a bush shelter is made, so as to look as 
natural as possible, close by a waterhole, and from behind 
this animals are speared as they come down to drink. It 
must be remembered that during the long dry seasons of 
Central Australia watcrholes are few and far between, so that 
in this way the native is aided in his work of killing animals. 
In some parts advantage is taken of the inquisitive nature of 
the emu. A native will carry something which resembles the 
long neck and small head of the bird and will gradually 
approach his prey, stopping every now and then, and moving 
about in the aimless way of the bird itself. The emu, anxious 
to know what the thing really is, will often wait and watch 
it until the native has the chance of throwing his spear at 
close quarters. Sometimes a deep j^it will be dug in a part 
which is known to be a feeding ground of the bird. In the 
bottom of this a short, sharply-pointed spear will be fixed 
upright, and then, on the top, bushes will be spread and earth 

' The euro is a small kangaroo (Macropiis robust us). 


scattered upon them. The inquisitive bird comes up to in- 
vestigate the matter, and sooner or later ventures on the 
bushes, and, falling through, is transfixed b\- the spear. 
Smaller birds such as the rock pigeons, which assemble in 
flocks at an}- waterhole, are caught by throwing the boomerang 
amongst them, and larger birds, such as the eagle-hawk, the 
down of which is much valued for decoratinfj the bodv durino; 


the performance of sacred ceremonies, are procured b}- the 
same weapon. 

It may be said that with certain restrictions ^ which apply 
partly to groups of individuals and partly to individuals at 
certain times of their lives, everything which is edible is used 
for food.- So far as cooking is concerned, the method is 
primitive. Many of the vegetables such as the Irriakura (the 
bulb of Cyperiis rotundus), may be eaten raw, or the}' ma}' be 

^ J"ood restrictions are dealt with in chapter xii. 

- A comprehensive list of animals and plants has been already published by 
Dr. Stirling, Report of Horn Exped. to Central Aiist., pt. iv. p. 51. 


roasted in hot ashes. Very often large quantities of the pods 
of an acacia will be gathered and laid on the hot ashes, some 
of which are heaped up over them, and then the natives 
simply sit round, and " shell " and cat the seeds as if they 
were peas — in fact they taste rather like raw green peas. 
Perhaps the most standard vegetable diet of the natives in 
this part of the Centre is what is called by the natives in 
the north of the Arunta, Ingwitchika, and b\- white men 
usuallx" Munyeru. This is the seed of a species of Claytonia. 
The women gather large quantities and winnow the little 
black seeds by pouring them from one pitclii into another so 
that the wind may carry off the husks, or else, taking 
some up in their hands, they blow the husks away. When 
freed from the latter, they are placed on one of the usual 
grinding stones and then ground down with a smaller stone 
held in the hand. Water is poured on every now and then, 
and the black, muddy-looking mixture tumbles over the side 
into a receptacle, and is then ready for eating either raw or 
after baking in the ashes. Munyeru seems to take the place 
amongst these tribes of the Nardoo (the spore cases of 
Marsilca quadrifoliii) which is a staple article of food in the 
Barcoo district and other parts of the interior of Australia. 

In the case of animals the larger ones are usually cooked in 
more or less shallow pits in the ground. An opossum is first 
of all disembowelled, the wool is then plucked off with the 
fingers and the body placed on the hot ashes. A rock wallaby 
is treated in much the same w-ay, except that the hair is first 
singed off in the fire and then the skin is scraped with a piece 
of flint. The ashes are heaj^ed up over the bod)-, which, when 
partly cooked, is taken out and an incision made in each 
groin ; the holes fill and refill with fluid, which is greatly 
appreciated and drunk up at once. The animal is then 
divided up, the flint at the end of the spear-thrower being 
u.sed for this purpose. When cooking an Echidna the intes- 
tines are first removed. Then a small hole is dug, the bottom 
is sprinkled with water, and the animal placed in it. The 
back is covered with a layer of moist earth or sand, which is 
removed after about a quarter of an hour, and hot ashes 
substituted, which are removed after a few minutes. The 


skin with the quills is next cut off with a flint, and the body 
is then placed amongst hot ashes till cooked. 

When a euro or kangaroo is killed, the first thing that is 
always done is to dislocate the hind-legs so as to make the 
animal what is called atnuta or limp. A small hole is cut 
with a flint in one side of the abdomen, and after the intes- 
tines have been pulled out, it is closed up with a wooden 
skewer. The intestines are usually cooked by rolling them 
about in hot sand and ashes, any fat which may be present 
being carefully removed, as it is esteemed a great delicacy. 
One of the first things to be done is to extract the tendons 
from the hind limbs. To do this the skin is cut through 
close to the foot with the sharp bit of flint which is attached 
to the end of the spear-thrower. A hitch is next taken round 
the tendon with a stick, and then, with one foot against 
the animal's rump, the man pulls until the upper end gives 
way. Then the loose end is held in the teeth, and, when 
tightly stretched, the lower end is cut through with the flint 
and the tendon thus extracted is twisted up and put for safe 
keeping beneath the waist girdle, or in the hair of the head just 
behind the ear. These tendons are of great service to the 
natives in various ways, such as for attaching the barbed 
points on to the ends of the spears, or for splicing spears or 
mending broken spear-throwers. Meanwhile a shallow pit, 
perhaps one or two feet deep, has been dug with sticks, and 
in this a large fire is made. When this burns up, the body 
is usually held in the flames to singe off the fur, after which it 
is scraped with a flint. Sometimes this part of the perform- 
ance is omitted. The hind legs are cut off at the middle 
joint and the tail either divided in the middle or cut off close 
to the stump. When the fire has burnt down the animal is 
laid in the pit on its back with its legs protruding through the 
hot ashes, which are heaped up over it. After about an hour 
it is supposed to be cooked, and is taken off, laid on green 
boughs so as to prevent it from coming in contact with the earth, 
and then cut up, the hind legs being usually removed first. 
In some parts where the fur is not singed off, the first thing 
that is done after removing the body from the fire is to take 
off the burnt skin. The carver assists himself, during the pro- 


cess of cutting the body up into joints, to such dainty morsels 
as the heart and kidneys, while any juice which accumulates 
in the internal cavities of the body is greedily drunk. 

When cooking an emu the first thing that is done is to 
roughly pluck it ; an incision is then made in the side 
and the intestines withdrawn, and the inside stuffed with 
feathers, the cut being closed by means of a wooden skewer. 
A pit is dug sufficiently large to hold the bod}- and a fire 
lighted in it, over which the bod}- is held and singed so as to 
get rid of the remaining feathers. The legs are cut off at the 
knee joint, and the head brought round under one leg, to 
which it is fastened with a wooden skewer. The ashes arc 
now removed from the pit, and a layer of feathers put in ; on 
these the bird is placed resting on its side ; another layer of 
feathers is placed over the bird, and then the hot ashes are 
strewn over. When it is supposed to be cooked enough, it is 
taken out, placed on its breast, and an incision is made run- 
ning round both sides so as to separate the back part from the 
under portion of the bod\-. It is then turned on to its back, 
the legs taken off and the meat cut up. 

The tracking powers of the natixe are well-known, but it 
is difficult to realise the skill which they display unless one 
has seen them at work.^ Not only does the native know the 
track of ever)- beast and bird, but after examining any burrow 
he will at once, from the direction in which the last track 
runs, tell you whether the animal is at home or not. From 
earliest childhood bo)-s and girls alike arc trained to take note 
of ever}- track made b}- every living thing. With the women 
especially it is a frequent amusement to imitate on the sand}- 
ground the tracks of various animals, which they make with 
wonderful accurac}- with their hands. Not only do thc}^ 
know the varied tracks of the latter, but the}- will distinguish 
those of particular men and women. In this respect the men 
vary greatl}-, a fact which is \\ell known to, and appreciated 

' Whilst at Hermannsburg mi the Finkc River, and also at Alice Springs, Dr. 
E. Eylmann, who has l)een engaged for some time past in scientific exploration in 
Central Australia, tested carefully the capacity of the natives with regard to the 
senses of sight and hearing, and has kindly communicated lo us the result of his 
tests. Dr. Eylmann says, " I found that both senses were not on an average 
better developed in the aborigines than in Europeans." 


by, those in charge of the native poHce in various parts of the 
interior of the continent. Whilst they can all follow tracks 
which would be indistinguishable to the average white man, 
there is a great difference in their ability to track when the 
tracks become obscure. The difference is so marked that 
while an ordinary good tracker will have difficulty in following 
them while he is on foot, and so can see them close to, a 
really good one will unerringly follow them up on horse or 
camel back.^ Not only this, but, strange as it may sound to 
the average white man whose meals are not dependent upon 
his ability to track an animal to its burrow or hiding place, 
the native will recognise the footprint of every individual of 
his acquaintance. 

\\'hilst in matters such as tracking, which are concerned 
with their everyda}' life, and upon efficienc}' in which the}' 
actually depend for their livelihood, the natives show con- 
spicuous ability, there are other directions in which the\' are 
as conspicuously deficient. This is perhaps shown most 
clearly in the matter of counting. At Alice Springs they 
occasional!}' count, sometimes using their fingers in doing so, 
up to five, but frequentl}' anything be}'ond four is indicated 
b}- the word oknira, meaning much or great. One is Jtintha, 
two thrajua Or thera, three urapitcha, four therankathera, five 
theranka-tJiera-nintJia. Time is counted b}' " sleeps " or 
" moons," or phases of the moon, for which the}" have definite 
terms : longer periods the}' reckon b}' means of seasons, 
having nanies for summer and winter. The}' have further 
definite words expressing particular times, such as morning 
before sunrise {ingwiinthagwunthd), evening {tingivurild), 
}'esterda}- {ahniirka), da}' before }'esterda}' {abviirkairpina), 
to-morrow {uignnuitha), day after to-morrow {ingivunthairpina), 

^ The experience of Mr. E. C. Cowle, to whose kindly aid we are much in- 
debted, and than whom no one has had better opportunities of judging, is decisive 
upon this point. When in pursuit of wild natives amongst the desolate scrubs and 
ranges he has had ample opportunities of comparing their different capacities in 
this respect, and, from long experience, is qualified to speak with certainty. At 
the present time Mr. Cowle has under him one native who, in difficult country — 
and what this means those who have travelled over the wild and desolate parts 
of the interior know well — can follow with unerring certainty, and while riding, 
tracks which the other black fellows with him will only distinguish with difficulty, 
or, sometimes, will even fail to see. 


in some days {ingivutithalkum), in a short time {iiigivim- 
tliaunma), in a long time {ingivuutha arbaruiauiujii)} It 
may also be said that for every animal and plant which is 
of any service to them, and for numberless others, such as 
various forms of mice, insects, birds, &c., amongst animals, 
and various kinds of shrubs and grasses amongst plants, they 
have distinctive names ; and, further still, they distinguish the 
sexes, marla indicating the female sex, and uria the male. 
In many respects their memory is phenomenal. Their mental 
powers are simply developed along the lines w hich are of 
service to them in their daily life. 

However, to return to the native camp once more. If we 
examine their weapons and implements of \arious kinds, 
that is those usually carried about, they will be found to be 
comparatively few in number and simple. A woman has 
always a pitclii, that is a wooden trough var}-ing in length 
from one to three feet, which has been hollowed out of the 
soft wood of the bean tree {Erythriua vespcrtilio), or it may 
be out of hard wood such as mulga or eucalypt. In this she 
carries food material, either balancing it on her head or hold- 
ing it slung on to one hip by means of a strand of human hair 
or ordinary fur string across one shoulder. Xot infrcqucntl}' 
a small baby will be carried about in a pitcJii. The only 
other implement possessed by a woman is what is popularly 
called a "yam stick," which is simply a digging stick or, to 
speak more correctly, a pick. The commonest form consists 
merely of a straight staff of wood with one or both ends 
bluntl)' pointed, and of such a size that it can easily be carried 
in the hand and used for digging in the ground. When at 
work, a woman will hold the pick in the right hand close to 
the lower end, and, alternately digging this into the ground 
with one hand, while with the other she scoops out the 
loo.sened earth, will dig down with surprising speed. In 
])arts of the scrub, where live the honey ants, which form 

' The terms yiven are those used in the north of the Ariinta. In the south the 
words are often quite different from those used in the north. A j;ranniiar and 
vocabulary has Ijeen jiublishcd l)y the Rev. 11. Kempe, who was for some years 
in charge of an outlying mission station in the southern jiart at Ilermannsburg. 
Trans. K. S. South Australia, 1891, p. I. 


a very favourite food of the natives, acre after acre of hard 
sandy soil is seen to have been dug out, simph- b\- the picks 
of the women in search of the insect, until the place has just 
the appearance of a deserted field where diggers have, for 
long, been at work " prospecting." Very often a small pitchi 
will be used as a shovel or scoop, to clear the earth out with, 
when it gets too deep to be merely thrown up with the hand, 
as the woman goes on digging deeper and deeper until at last 
she may reach a depth of some six feet or even more. Of 
course the children go out with the women, and from the 
moment that they can toddle about they begin to imitate the 
actions of their mother. In the scrub a woman will be 
digging up lizards or honey ants while close by her small 
child will be at work, with its diminutive pick, taking its 
first lessons in what, if it be a girl, will be the main emplo\-- 
ment of her life. 

So far as clothing is concerned, a woman is not much 
encumbered in her work. She usually wears around her 
neck one or more rings, each of which is commonly formed 
of a central strand of fur string, round which other strands 
are tightly wound till the whole has a diameter varying 
from a quarter to half an inch. The two ends of the 
central strand are left projecting so that they can be tied 
behind the neck, and the ring thus made is thickly coated with 
grease and red ochre. A similar kind of ring is often worn 
on the head ^ and, amongst the younger women especially, 
instead of, or perhaps in addition to, the hair neck ring, there 
may be worn a long string of the bright red beads of the bean 
tree. Each bead is bored through with a fire stick, and the 
pretty necklet thus made hangs round the neck in several 
coils, or may pass from each shoulder under the opposite 
arm pit. 

North of the ^lacdonnell Ranges the women wear small 
aprons formed of strands of fur string suspended from a waist 
string, and on the forehead they often wear an ornament com- 
posed of a small lump of porcupine-grass resin, into which 
are fixed either a few kangaroo incisor teeth or else a number 

^ These head rings, which are called OkiiUanina, are usually made and presented 
to the woman by a son-in-law, to whom the woman has to give her own hair. 


of small bright red seeds, A short strand of string is fixed 
into the resin and by means of this the ornament is tied to the 
hair, so that it just overhangs the forehead. 

The men's weapons consist of shield, spears, boomerang 
and spear-thrower, all of which are constantly carried about 
when on the march. The shields, though they var)- in size, 
are of similar design over practicall\- the whole Central area. 
The)' are uniforml}- made of the light wood of the bean tree, 
so that their actual manufacture is limited to the more 
northern parts where this tree grows. The Warramunga tribe 
are especially noted for their shields, which are traded far and 
wide over the Centre. Each has a distinctl)- convex outer 
and a concave inner surface, in the middle of which a space is 
hollowed out, leaving a bar running across in the direction of 
the length, which can be grasped by the hand. 

In the Ilpirra, Arunta and Luritcha tribes the ordinary 
spear is about ten feet, or somewhat less, in length ; the body 
is made of Tecoma wood and the tip of a piece of mulga, 
which is spliced on to the bod\' and the splicing bound round 
with tendon. Close to the sharp point a small cur\ed barb is 
attached b}- tendon, though in many this barb is wanting. A 
rarer form of spear is made out of heavier wood, such as the 
desert oak {Casiiarina Descaiiicaua), and this is fashioned out 
of one piece and has no barb. 

The spear-thrower is perhaps the most useful single thing 
which the nati\e has. It is in the form of a hollowed out 
piece of mulga from two feet to two feet six inches in length, 
with one end tapering graduall)- to a narrow handle, and the 
other, more suddenl}-, to a blunt point, to which is attached, 
by means of tendon, a short, sharp bit of hard wood which 
fits into a hole in the end of a spear. At the handle end is 
a lump of resin into which is usually fixed a piece of sharp- 
edged flint or quartzite, which forms the most important 
cutting weapon of the native. 

The boomerangs are not like the well-known ones which 
are met with in certain other parts and which are so made that 
when thrown the\- return to the sender. The Central Austra- 
lian native does not appear to have hit upon this contrivance, 
or, at least, if he ever possessed an)- such, the art of making 


them is now completely lost ; his boomerang has a widely 
open curve, and the flat blade lies wholly in one plane. 


In addition to these weapons a man will probably carr}- 
about with him a small wallet which is made simply of part 
of the skin of .some animal, or perhaps of short strips of bark 


tied round with fur string. In this wallet he will carr\- a tuft 
or two of feathers for decoration, a spare bit or two of 
quartzite, a piece of red ochre, a kind of knout which has 
the form of a skein of string, and is supposed, b\- men and 
women alike, to be of especial use and efficacy in chastising 
women, and possibl)' he will have some charmed object, such 
as a piece of hair cut from a dead man's head and carefully 
ensheathed in hair or fur string. If the man be old it is not 
at all unlikely that he will have with him, hidden away from 
the sight of the women, a sacred stick or bull-roarer, or even 
a sacred stone. 

In the south of the Arunta tribe the women weave bags 
out of string made of fur or vegetable fibre, in which they 
carry food, &c., but these are not found in the northern jaarts. 

One of the most striking and characteristic features of the 
Central Australian implements and weapons is the coating of 
red ochre with which the native covers everything except his 
spear and spear-thrower. 

As regards clothing and ornament, the man is little better 
off than the woman. His most constant article is a waist belt 
made of human hair — usually provided by his mother-in-law. 
On his forehead, stretched across from ear to ear, is a cJiilara 
or broad band made of parallel strands of fur string, and 
around his neck he will ha\e one or more rings similar to 
those worn by the women. Mis hair will be well greased 
and also red ochred, and in the Luritcha and Arunta it maj- 
be surmounted b}' a pad of emu feathers, worn in much the 
same wa)- as a chignon, and tied on to the hair with fur 
.string. If he be at all vain he will have a long nose-bone 
ornament, with a rat-tail or perhaps a bunch of cockatoo 
feathers at one end, his diilara will be covered with white 
pipecla\- on which a design will be drawn in red ochre, and 
into either side of his chignon will be fastened a tuft of white 
or brightly-coloured feathers. His only other article of 
clothing, if such it can be called, is the small pubic tassel 
which, especially if it be covered with white pipeclay, .serves 
rather as an ornament than as a covering. 

Such are the ordinary personal belongings of the natives 
which the}' carrj' about with them on their wanderings. 



Each local group has certain favourite camping grounds 
by the side of waterholes, where food is more or less easily- 
attainable, and in spots such as these there will always be 
found clusters of mia-viias, made of boughs, which are simply 

fk;. 8.— arunta native, full face. 

replaced as the old ones wither up, or when perhaps in the 
hot weather they are burnt down. 

When many of them are camped together it can easily be 
seen that the camp is divided into two halves, each separated 
from the other by some such natural feature as a small creek, 


or ven- often if the camj:)in<^ jjlace be close to a hill, the one 
half will erect its niia-inias on the risin<^, and the other on the 
low ground. We shall see later that in the case of the Arunta 
tribe, for example, all the individuals belong to one or other 
of the four divisions called Panunga, Bukhara, Purula and 
Kumara, and in camp it will be found that the first two are 
always separated from the last two. 

During the day-time the women are sure to be out in search 
of food, while the men either go out in search of larger game, 
or else, if lazy and food be abundant, they will simply sleep 
all da\', or perhaps employ their time in making or trimming 
up their weapons. When conditions are favourable e\er}'one 
is cheerful and light-hearted, though every now and then a 
quarrel will arise, followed perhaps by a fight, which is usually 
accompanied by much noise and little bloodshed. On such 
occasions, if it be the women who are concerned, fighting 
clubs will be freely used and blows given and taken which 
would soon render hors de combat an ordinary \\hite woman, 
but which have comparatively little effect u])on the black 
\\omen ; the men usually look on w ith apj>arent complete 
indifference, but may sometimes interfere and stop the fight. 
If, however, two men are fighting, the mother and sisters 
of each will cluster round him, shouting at the top of their 
voices and dancing about with a peculiar and ludicrous high 
knee action, as they attem[)t to shelter him from the blows 
of his adversary's boomerang or fighting club, with the result 
that they frequently receive upon their bodies the blows 
meant for the man whom llicy are attem[jting to shield. 

As a general rule the natives are kindly disjjosed to one 
another, that is of course within the limits of their own tribe, 
and, where two tribes come into contact with one another on 
the border land of their respective territories, there the same 
ainicable feelings are maintained between the members of the 
two. There is no such thing as one tribe being in a constant 
state of enmity with another so far as these Central tribes are 
concerned. Now and again of course fights do occur between 
the members of different local groups who ma\' or may not 
belong to the same or to different tribes. 

We have already spoken of the local groups as being com- 







posed mainl\- of individuals each of whom bears the name of 
some animal or plant ; that is each such group consists, to a 
large extent, but by no means exclusively, of men and women 
of, what is commonly spoken of as, a particular totem. The 
question of totems amongst these tribes will be dealt with in 
detail subsequently', what we desire to draw attention to here 
is simpl)' the fact that, in these tribes, there is no such thing 
as the members of one totem being bound together in such a 
way that they must combine to fight on behalf of a member 
of the totem to which they belong. If, for example, a large 
number of natives are gathered together and a fight occurs, 
then at once the Panungaand Bukhara men on the one hand, 
and the Purula and Kumara on the other hand, make com- 
mon cause. It is only indeed during the performance of 
certain ceremonies that the existence of a mutual relation- 
ship, consequent upon the possession of a common totcmic 
name, stands out at all prominently. In fact it is perfectly 
easy to spend a considerable time amongst the Arunta tribe 
without even being aware that each individual has a totemic 
name, whilst, on the other hand, the fact that every individual 
belongs to one or other of the divisions, Panunga, Purula, 
etc., is soon, apparent. This is associated with the fact that 
in these tribes, unlike what obtains in so man)- of the tribes 
whose organisation has hitherto been described, the totem 
has nothing whatever to do with regulating marriage, nor 
again does the child of necessity belong either to its mother's 
or its father's totem. 

In many works on anthropology it is not unusual to see a 
particular custom which is practised in one or more tribes 
quoted in general terms as the custom of " the Australian 
native." It is, however, e.ssential to bear in mind that, whilst 
undoubtedly there is a certain amount in common as regards 
social organi.sation and customs amongst the Australian 
tribes, yet, on the other hand, there is great diversity. Some 
tribes, for example, count descent in the maternal line, others 
count it in the paternal line ; indeed, it is not as yet possible 
to say which of these methods is the more widely practised 
in Australia. In some tribes totems govern marriage, in 
others they have nothing to do with the question. In some 



tribes a tooth is knocked out at the initiation rite, in others 
the knocking out of the tooth may be practised, but is not 
part of the initiation rite, and in others again the custom is 
not practised at all. In some tribes the initiation rite con- 


sists in circumcision and perhaps other forms of mutilation 
as well ; in others this practice is quite unknown. In some 
tribes there is a sex totem, in others there is no such thing ; 
and in isolated cases we meet with an individual totem 

D 2 


distinct from the totem common to a ^roup of men and 

\\'hen the great size of the land area occupied by the 
Australian tribes is taken into account, such diversity in 
custom and organisation is not to be wondered at. When, 
if ever, \vc gain an adequate knowledge of the various tribes 
still left, it ma\- be possible to piece the whole together and 
to trace out the development from a common starting-point 
of the various customs and s\-stems of organisation met with 
in different parts of the continent. At the present time we 
can perhaps group the tribes into two or three large divisions, 
each possessing certain well-marked features in common, such 
as counting descent in the maternal or paternal line as the 
case ma\' be, but be\ond this, as yet, we cannot go.^ 

* It is not easy to say wiUi anything like certainty tlial one tribe is in any par- 
ticular respect more "primitive " than another. It is, for example, generally assumed 
that counting descent in the female, is a more primitive method than counting 
descent in the male line, and that of two tribes, in one of which we have maternal 
descent and in the other paternal, the former is in this respect in a more primitive 
condition than the latter ; but it may even be doubled whether in all cases the 
counting of descent in the female line has preceded the counting of it in the male 
line. The very fact that descent is counted at all, that is, that any given individual 
when born has some distinguishing name, because he or she is born of some par- 
ticular woman, indicates the fact that men and women are divided into groups 
bearing such distinctive names, for it must be remembered that in these savage 
tribes the name which is transmitted to offspring, and by means of which descent 
is counted, is always a group name. When once we have any such system, 
whether it be totemic or otherwise, then we have arrived at a stage in which it is 
possible to imagine that the men of one particular grou]i have marital relations only 
with women of another particular group. Supposing we take two of these 
exogamous groups, which we will designate A and B. Thus men of A have marital 
relations with women of B, and vice versa. When once these groups are 
established, then, there is, in reality, no difficulty whatever in counting ilescent in the 
male just as easily as in the female line. It is quite true that the individvial father 
of any particular child may not be known, but this, so far as counting descent 
under the given conditions is concerned, is a matter of no importance. The only 
name which can be transmitted, and by means of which descent can be counted (as 
indeed it is amongst the Australian tribes of the present day), is the group name, 
and as women of group B can only have marital relations with men of group A, 
it follows that the father of any child of a woman of group B must belong to group 
A, and therefore, though the actual father may not be known, there appears to be 
no inevitable necessity for the child to pass into group B rather than into group 
A. On the other hand, if we sup|X)se men of one group to have marital relations 
with women of more than one other group, then, unless each woman be restricted 
to one man, descent, if counted at all, must of necessity follow the female line. 


In the matter of personal appearance, whilst conforming 
generally to the usual Australian t\-pe of features, there is 
very considerable difference between various individuals. In 
the matter of height, the average of twenty adult males 
measured by us, was i66'3 cm. The tallest was I7S"2 cm., 
and the shortest I58"2 cm. The average of ten adult 
females was I56'8 cm. ; the tallest was 163 cm., and the 
shortest was I5r5 cm. The average chest measurement of 
the same twenty men was 90'33 cm. ; the greatest being 97 
cm., and the least 83 cm. 

In some the pronounced curve of the nose gave superfici- 
ally a certain Jewish aspect, though in many this curve was 
completely wanting, and in all the nasal width was very con- 
siderable, the spreading out of the lobes being certainly 
emphasised by the practice of wearing a nose-bone. In the 
twenty males the average width was 4"8 cm. and the length 
5" I cm. ; in the ten females the average width was 43 cm. 
and the length 4'6 cm. The greatest width in an}- male was 
5"4 cm. and the least 3*9 cm. ; the length of the former was 
5 '2 cm., and of the latter 4 cm. The greatest length was 6"2 cm., 
and in this case the width was 4^9 cm., which represents the 
greatest variation measured as between the length and width, 
the latter in some few cases (five out of the thirty) slightly 
exceeding the length. The root of the nose is depressed and 
the supra-orbital ridges very strongly marked. The buccal 
width is considerable, averaging 5 '8 cm. in the males and 
5*4 cm. in the females. The greatest width in the males is 
6"5 cm. and in the females 6 cm., the least width being re- 
spectively 5*3 cm. and 4*7 cm. The lips are always thick. 

In colour the Central Australian, though usually described 
as black, is by no means so. Out of the twenty males ex- 
amined all, save one, corresponded as closely as possible with 
the chocolate-brown which is numbered 28 on Broca's scheme,^ 
the odd one was slightly lighter. The only way in which to 
judge correctly of the colour is to cut a small square hole in 
a sheet of white paper and to place this upon the skin ; un- 
less this is done there is a tendency on first inspection to 
think that the tint is darker than it reall)- is. To ascertain 

1 Instructions Anthropologtqttes Gtii^ra/is, M. J'. Broca, 2nd edit. , 1S79. 


the tint two or three parts of the body were tested, the chest, 
back and legs. It must be remembered that the Central 
Australian native is fond of rubbing himself over with grease 
and red ochre, especiall}' at times when ceremonies are being 
performed, but we do not think that in the individuals ex- 
amined this interfered materially with the determination, the 
colour of all the individuals and of the various parts tested 
being strikingl)' uniform. While at work we alwaj-s had 
two or three of them together, and the\- could alwa}*s detect 
the patch of colour on the plate which corresponded to that 
of the skin examined. The women, with one exception, 
corresponded in colour to number 29, the odd one being 
of the darker shade, number 28, like the men. The new- 
born child is always of a decidedl)- lighter tint, but it rapidl)' 
darkens after the first da}- or two. A half-caste girl at Alice 
Springs corresponded to number 21 in colour, and the off- 
spring, a few months old, by a white man of a half-caste 
woman in the .southern part of the tribe, was undi.stinguishable 
in colour from the average English child of the same age. 

The hair of the head is alwa}-s well developed in the males, 
though, owing to certain customs which will be described 
later, and which necessitate the periodical cutting off of the 
hair, the amount on the head of any indi\idual is a variable 
quantit}-. When full}- developed it falls down over the 
shoulders in long and very wavy locks. As a general rule it 
is shorter than this, but it always appears to be more or less 
wav)', though the fondness of the natives for smearing it over 
with grease and red ochre frequentl}- results in the jjroduc- 
tion of tangled locks, in each of which the component hairs 
are matted together, whereas in the natural state they would 
simpl}' form a wavy mass. The beard is usuall}* well-de\el- 
opcd, and better so amongst the Arunta, llpirra, and Luritcha 
than amongst the northern tribes, such as the Warramunga 
and W'aagi, where the whiskers are usually but comparatively 
poorl)- developed. The beard is usuall)' friz7,\' rather than 
wavy, and in some instances this feature is a ver)' striking 
one ; but we have never, amongst many hundred natives 
examined, seen one which could be called wooll}-. The colour, 
except amongst the older men who have reached an age of, 



so far as can be judged, fifty or sixty years, when the hair 

becomes scant}' and white, is usual!)- jet black, though the 
presence of abundant red ochre may, at first sight, cause it to 
appear to be of a more brownish hue, and occasional!}- it is of 
a darl< brown tint ratlier than jet blact:. Amongst tlie children 


there are now and then met with some whose hair is of a 
decidedly lighter colour, but the lightness is confined to the 
tips, very rarely reaching to the roots, and with the growth of 
the individual it usual!}-, but not always, assumes the normal 
darlc colour. The les^s and arms usuallv have a thin coatincr 


of short, crisp, black hair, and sometimes the whole body may 
be covered with hair, the most extreme development of which 
was seen in the case of one of the oldest men, where, as the 
hair was white with age, it stood out in strong contrast to the 
dark skin ; but, as a rule, the hairs on the general surface 
of the bod}' are nothing like so strongl)- developed as in the 
case of the average Englishman, and are not noticeable except 
on close examination. 

The method of treatment of the hair varies in different 
tribes and jjroduces a marked difference in the appearance of 
the face. In all the tribes living between Charlotte Waters 
in the south and Tennant Creek in the north the men, at 
puberty, pull out the hairs on the forehead, causing this to 
look much more loft\' and extensive than it is in realit)*. Each 
hair is separatel\- pulled out, and over the part thus artificially 
made bare the chilara or forehead band is worn. The remain- 
ing hair is tightl\- pulled back and usuall\- bound round with 
fur string, and is often in the Arunta and Luritcha tribes sur- 
mounted b\' the emu-feather chignon alrcad)- referred to. In 
the Urabunna tribe away to the south of Charlotte Waters the 
hair is often enclosed in a net-like structure. In the War- 
ramunga tribe the older men, but only those who ha\e reached 
an age of about forty }-ears, pull the hairs out of the upper 
lip, a custom never practised in the more southern tribes. 

Amongst the women the hair is gcneralK' worn short,^ 
which is closely associated with the fact that, at times, each 
woman has to present her hair to the man who is betrothed 
to her daughter, for the purj^ose of making him a waist-belt. 
The bod)' is usually smooth with, at most, a development of 
very fine short hairs only perceptible on close examination, 
and there may be occasionalh' a well-marked development of 
hair on the lip or chin, which is especially noticeable in the 
old women, .some of whom are probably fifty \-ears of age and 
have reached a stage of ugliness which baffles description. 

A very striking feature of both men and w(jmen are the 
body scars which are often spoken of as tattoo marks, a name 
which, as Dr. Stirling sa\-s, " is unfortunate and should be 

' Amongst tlic Warraiminga women the liair on llie middle of the head may be 
made into a plait which falls over towards the forehead. 



abandoned, as the scars in question with which the bodies of 

Australian natives are generally decorated differ entirely from 
the coloured patterns produced by the permanent staining of 
the tissue with pigments to which the term tattoo mark ought 
to be limited." ^ 

Every individual has a certain number of these scars raised 
on his body and arms, but very rareh^ on the back. As is 


well known, they are made b\- cutting the skin with a piece of 
flint, or, at the present da}', glass is used when obtainable, and 
into the wound thus made ashes are rubbed or the down of 
the eagle-hawk, the idea being, so the}' sa}-, to promote heal- 
ing, and not, though the treatment probabl}- has this effect, to 
aid in the raising of a scar. In some cases they ma}- stretch 
right across the chest or abdomen. As a general rule the 
scars are both more numerous and longer on the men than on 

' Loc. lit., p. 24. 

xati\'p: tribes of central Australia chap. 

the women, but no definite distinction can be drawn in this 
respect ; the absolutely greatest number of scars noticed being 
on a woman on whom there were fort)- roughly parallel 
cicatrices between the navel and a point just above the 
breasts. Very frequentl\', on the other hand, the scars are 
limited on a woman to one or two which unite the breasts 
across the middle line. The cicatrices in the region of the 
breast usually stand out most prominentl}*, the most marked 
ones having an elevation of 15 mm. and a width of 20 mm. 
In addition to these roughl}' horizontal bands, which are 
alwa\-s made in greater or lesser number, others ma}' be 
present which we ma)- divide into three series, (/i) a few usually 
curved bands on the scapular region which are not often met 
with ; (/>) a series of usually paired short bands leading off on 
cither side obliquely across the chest to the shoulder ; (r) 
bands on the arms. In some cases these may be \ertically 
disposed, in others horizontall)', and in others we find some 
of one form and some of the other. In all of them again 
there is no distinction to be drawn between men and 
women. Occasionally the cicatrices on the arm will be 
as prominent as those on the bod\', but usually' the}' are 
less so. 

There is, apart from ornament, no special meaning, so far 
as their form or arrangement is concerned, to be attached at 
the present da\' to these cicatrices, nor could we discover any- 
thing in their customs and traditions leading to the belief that 
the}' had ever had any deeper meaning.^ Vague statements 
have been made with regard to marks such as these, to the 
effect that the}' indicate, in some wa}', the jiarticular division 
of the tribe to which each individual belongs. Amongst the 
tribes fn^n Oodnadatta in the south, to Tennant Creek in 
the north, they certainl}' have no such meaning, and we arc 
very sceptical as to whether they have an}'where in Australia ; 
the}' are so characteristic of the natives of man}' parts, that 
the idea of their having a definite meaning is one which 
naturally suggests itself; but at all events, so far as the tribes 
now dealt with are concerned, they have no significance at 

^ Certain of them, both on men and women, are made at special times in con- 
nection with initiatory and mourning ceremonies, as described later. 



the present day as indicative of either tribal, class, or totemic 

In addition to these ever}- man will be marked usual!}- on 
the left shoulder, but sometimes on the right as well, with 
irregular scars which ma}- form prominent cicatrices, and are 
the result of self-inflicted wounds made on the occasion of the 
mourning ceremonies which are attendant upon the death of 
i ndividuals who stand in certain definite relationships to him, 


such, for example, as his Ikuntera or father-in-law, actual or 
tribal. Not infrequently the men's thighs will be marked with 
scars indicative of wounds inflicted with a stone knife during 
a fight. 

Just like the men, the women on the death of certain rela- 
tives cut themselves, and these cuts often leave scars behind. 
Sometimes writers have described these scars and treated 
them as evidence of the cruel treatment of the women b}- the 
men, whereas, as a matter of fact. b\' far the c^reater number 


of scars, which are often a prominent feature on a woman's 
bod)', are the indications of self-inflicted wounds, and of them 
she is proud, as the)' are the visible evidence of the fact that 
she has properl)- mourned for her dead. 

Not infrequentl)' plat)'cnemia, or flattening of the tibial 
bones, is met with, and at times the curious condition to which 
Dr. Stirling has given the name of Camjitocnemia. The 
latter consists in an anterior curvature of the tibial bone and 
gives rise to what the white settlers have, for long, described 
by the very apt term " boomerang-leg." To what extent 
either or both of these conditions are racial or pathological it 
seems difficult to say, and for a full description of them the 
reader is referred to Dr. Stirling's report.^ 

As a general rule both men and women are well nourished, 
but naturally this depends to a large extent on the nature of 
the season. When travelling and hungr)' the plan is adopted 
of tightening the waistbelt, indeed this is worn so tight 
that it causes the production of a loose flap of skin, which is 
often a prominent feature on the abdomens of the older men. 
Though the leg is not strongl)^ developed, so far as size is 
concerned, still it is not always so spindle-shaped as is 
usually the case amongst Australian natives, and the muscles 
are as hard as possible, for the black fellow is always in 
training. The calf is decided!)- thin, the average of the 
twenty men, in circumference in its w idest part, being 3r5 cm., 
and of the ten women, 29"8 cm. 

The hands are decidedly small, the large span of the men 
averaging i6'8 cm. and of the women, I5"6cm. Onl)^ three 
of the men measure over i8 cm., and one measuring 22 cm. 
was of very exceptional size for a native. The smallest 
measures 15-3 cm. 

For the measurements of the head reference must be made 
to the appendix ; here it must suffice to say that the average 
cephalic index of the twenty men is 74*5, and that of the 
ten women, 757. These are, of course, the measurements in 
the living subject ; but, even if we allow for the two units 
which l?roca concluded should be subtracted from the index 

' Loc. cit. p. 19. 



of the lix'ing subject to get that of the cranium,^ the\' are still 
relative!}' high as compared with the index of 71 '5, which 
may be regarded as about the average index for Australian 
skulls. It must also be noted that there is great variability 
amongst the different individuals, the minimum measurement 
of the males being 68'8 h'ing at the extreme of dolicho- 
cephalic skulls, while the maximum of 8o'55 is just within 
the limit of sub-brachicephalic skulls. In the females the 

FU;. 14. — VOrNi; women, AKfNTA TRIBE, EUI.L FACE. 

smallest index is 73'88, and the largest 807. It must also be 
remembered that, owing to constant rubbing of the head with 
grease and red ochre, which mat the hairs together and form 
a kind of coating all round their roots, there is considerable 
difficult}' experienced in bringing the instrument into contact 
with the actual scalp, and that this difficult}' has of course to 
be encountered twice in the measurement of the transverse 

^ As quoted by Topinard, Anthropology, English trans., 1896, p. 326. Broca's 
original paper is not available in Melbourne. 


diameter. Making all allowances, there remains the strongl)' 
marked variation which undoubtedly exists amoncjst the 
various individuals. 

We ma}', in general terms, describe the Arunta native as 
being somewhat under the average height of an Englishman. 
His skin is of a dark chocolate colour, his nose is distinctly 
j3lat}Thinic with the root deep set, his hair is abundant and 
wa\}-, and his beard, whiskers and moustache well-developed 
and usually frizzled and jet black. His supra-orbital 
ridges are well-developed, and above them the forehead 
slopes back with the hair removed so as to artificiall)' increase 
its size. His body is well formed and very lithe, and he 
carries himself graceful 1}- and remarkably erect with his head 
thrown well back. 

Naturally, in the case of the women, ever\'thing depends 
upon their age, the )'ounger ones, that is those between four- 
teen and i^erhajis twent}', have decidedl)- well-formed figures, 
and, from their habit of carr}-ing on the head/Z/r/z/.v containing 
food and water, the}' carr}' themselves often with remarkable 
grace. As is usual, however, in the case of sawage tribes the 
drudgery of food-collecting and child-bearing tells upon them 
at an earl}' age, and between twent}' and twent}'-fi\e they 
begin to lose their graceful carriage ; the face wrinkles, the 
breasts hang pendulous, and, as a general rule, the whole 
body begins to shrixel up, until, at about the age of thirt}', 
all traces of an earlier well-formed figure and graceful carriage 
are lost, and the woman develops into what can onl}' be 
called an old and wrinkled hag. 

In regard to their character it is of course impossible to 
judge them from a white man's standard. In the matter of 
morality their code differs radicall}^ from ours, but it cannot 
be denied that their conduct is governed by it, and that any 
known breaches are dealt with both surely and severely. In 
very man\' cases there takes place what the white man, not 
seeing beneath the surface, not unnaturally describes as secret 
murder, but, in reality, revolting though such slaughter may 
be to our minds at the present day, it is simjjly exactly on a 
par with the treatment accorded to witches not so very long 
ago in European countries. Every case of such secret murder, 



when one or more men stealthily stalk their pre\' with the 
object of killing him, is in realit}- the exacting of a life for a life, 


the accused person being indicated by the so-called medicine 
man as one who has brought about the death of another man 


by magic, and whose life must therefore be forfeited.^ It need 
hardly be pointed out what a potent element this custom has 
been in keeping down the numbers of the tribe ; no such 
thing as natural death is realised b}- the native ; a man who 
dies has of necessity been killed by some other man, or 
perhaps c\en b)- a woman, and sooner or later that man or 
woman will be attacked. In the normal condition of the 
tribe every death meant the killing of another individual. 

Side b\' side, however, with this crude and barbarous custom 
we find others which reveal a more pleasing side of the native 
character. Generosity is certainl)- one of his leading features. 
He is always accustomed to give a share of his food, or of 
what he may possess, to his fellows. It may be, of course, 
objected to this that in so doing he is only following an old- 
established custom, the breaking of which would expose him 
to harsh treatment and to being looked upon as a churlish 
fellow. It will, however, hardly be denied that, as this custom 
e.xpresses the idea that in this particular matter every one is 
supposed to act in a kindly way towards certain individuals, 
the very existence of such a custom, even it it be only carried 
out in the hope of securing at some time a quid pro quo, 
shows that the native is alive to the fact that an action which 
benefits some one else is worthy of being performed. And 
here we may notice a criticism frequently made with regard 
to the native, and that is that he is incapable of gratitude. It 
is undoubted 1}' true that the native is not in the habit of 
showing anything like excessive gratitude on receiving gifts 
from the white man, but then neither does he think it neces- 
sar)' to express his gratitude when he receives a gift from one 
of his own tribe. It is necessary to put one's self into the 
mental attitude of the native, and then the matter is capable 
of being more or less explained and understood. It is with 
him a fixed habit to give away part of what he has, and he 
neither expects the man to whom he gives a thing to e.xpress 
his gratitude, nor, when a native gives him an)-thing, does he 

^ At the final mourning ceremonies of an old man held recently, \shen the men 
were leaving the grave one of the older ones jumped on to it and shinited out, 
" We have not found the Kurdaitcha who killed you yet, hut we will find him 
and kill him." 



When times are favourable the black fellow is as light- 
hearted as possible. He has not the slightest thought of, or 
care for, what the morrow ma\- bring forth, and lives entirely 
in the present. At night time men, women and children 
gather round the common camp fires talking and singing their 
monotonous chants hour after hour, until one after the other 
they drop out of the circle, going off to their different camps, 
and then at length all will be quiet, except for the occasional 


cry of a child who, as not seldom happens, rolls over into the 
fire and has to be comforted or scolded into quietness. 

There is, however, in these, as in other savage tribes, an 
undercurrent of anxious feeling which, though it may be 
stilled and, indeed, forgotten for a time, is yet always present. 
In his natural state the native is often thinking that some 
enemy is attempting to harm him by means of evil magic, 
and, on the other hand, he never knows when a medicine man 
in some distant group may not point him out as guilty 


of killinef some one else b)- magic. It is, however, eas)- to lay 
too much stress upon this, for here again we have to jjut 
ourselves into the mental attitude of the savage, and must not 
imagine simpl}' what would be our own feelings under such 
circumstances. It is not right, b)- an\' means, to sa}- that the 
Australian native lives in constant dread of the evil magic of 
an enem}'. The feeling is alwa}'s, as it were, lying dormant 
and ready to be at once called up by an\' strange or suspicious 
sound if he be alone, especiall)- at night time, in the bush ; 
but on the other hand, just like a child, he can with ease 
forget an}'thing unpleasant and enter perfectly into the en- 
jo)-ment of the present moment. Granted alwaj-s that his 
food supjDl}' is abundant, it may be said that the life of the 
Australian native is, for the most part, a pleasant one. 

In common with all other Australian tribes, those of the 
Centre have been shut off from contact with other peoples, 
and have therefore developed for long ages without the 
stimulus derived from external sources. It is sometimes 
asserted that the Australian native is degenerate, but it is 
difficult to .see on what grounds this conclusion is based. 
His customs and organisation, as well as his various weapons 
and implements, show, so far as we can see, no indication of 
an\' such feature. It ma\- be said that, as far as we are }'et 
acquainted with their customs, the \arious tribes ma}- be 
regarded as descended from ancestors who observed in 
common with one another certain customs, and were regulated 
b)" a definite social .sj-stem which was at one time common to 
them all. In course of time, as the\' wandered o\er the 
continent and became dixided into groujis, locall}' isolated tf) 
a large extent from one another, these groups developed along 
different lines. It is true that there has not been any strongly 
marked upward movement, but on the other hand, with 
possibh' a few exceptions which might have been expected 
to occur now and again in particular cases such as that of the 
Kulin tribe, instanced b)' Mr. How itt, an)- movement which 
there has been in social matters has been clearl}' in the 
direction of increasing their complexit)-, and there is, at all 
events, no evidence of the frjrmer existence of an\- stage of 
civilisation higher than the one in which we now find them. 



Division of the tribe into two exogamous intermarrying groups — Remarks on 
"group-marriage" — Terms of relationship — The latter are not in these tribes 
" terms of address," the object of which is the avoidance of the use of personal 
names — There are no terms of relationship in English which convey the same 
meaning as do those of Australian natives — Organisation of the Urabunna 
tribe — Marriage regulated by totem — Absence of individual marriage, and the 
existence of a form of group-marriage — Terms of relationship — Arrangement 
of the classes so as to allow of counting descent in either the maternal or 
paternal line — Organisation of the Arunta tribe — Marriage is not regulated 
by totem — Teifiis of relationship amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, Kaitish and 
Warramunga tribes — Details with regard to the terms of relationship in the 
Arunta tribe — Particular terms applied to father-in-law, &c. — Restrictions 
with regard to elder and younger sisters — The class divisions of the Ilpirra, 
Kaitish, Iliaura, Waagai, Warramunga, Bingongina and Walpari tribes- 
Distinct names for males and females in the last three. 

The fundamental feature in the organisation of the Central 
Australian, as in that of other Australian tribes, is the division 
of the tribe into two exogamous inter-marrying groups. 
These two divisions may become further broken up, but even 
when more than two are now present we can still recognise 
their former existence. 

In consequence of, and intimately associated with, this 
division of the tribe, there has been developed a series of 
terms of relationship indicating the relative status of the 
various members of the tribe, and, of necessity, as the division 
becomes more complex so do the terms of relationship. 

In the tribes with which we are dealing we can recognise at 
least two important types which illustrate different grades in 
the development of the social organisation. The first of these 
is found in the Urabunna tribe, the second in the Arunta, 
Ilpirra, Kaitish, Waagai, Warramunga, Iliaura, and Bingon- 
gina tribes. 


The less complex the orij^anisation of the tribe the more 
clear!}' do we see evidence of w hat Messrs. Howitt and I'^ison 
have called, in regard to Australian tribes, "group marriage." 
Under certain modifications this still exists as an actual 
custom, regulated by fixed and well-recognised rules, amongst 
various Australian tribes, whilst in others the terms of relation- 
ship indicate, without doubt, its former existence. As is well 
known, Mr. McLennan held that the terms 'must have been 
invented by the natives using them merel)- for the purpose of 
addressing each other or as modes of salutation. To those 
who have been amongst and watched the natives day after 
day, this explanation of the terms is utlerl}- unsatisfactory. 
When, in various tribes, we find series of terms of relationship 
all dependent upon classificatory systems such as those now 
to be described, and referring entirely to a mutual relationship 
such as would be brought about by their existence, we cannot 
do otherwise than come to the conclusion that the terms do 
actuall)' indicate various degrees of relationship based 
primarily upon the existence of inter-marrying groups. 
When we find, for example, that amongst the Arunta natives 
a man calls a large number of men belonging to one particular 
group by the name '' Oktiia" (a term which includes our 
relationship of father), that he calls all the wives of these 
men by the common name of " Mia " (mother),' and that he 
calls all their sons by the name of '* Okilia " (elder brother) or 
" Itia " (younger brother), as the case may be, we can come to 
no other conclusion than that this is expressive of his recogni- 
tion of what may be called a group relationship. All the 
" fathers " are men who belong to the particular group to which 
his own actual father belongs ; all the " mothers " belong to 
the same group as that to which his actual mother beh^igs, 
and all the " brothers" belong to his own grou]). 

Whatever else they may be, the relationship terms are 
certainl}^ not terms of address, the object of which is to 
prevent the native having to employ a personal name. In 
the Arunta tribe, for example, every man and woman has a 

' In usint; llic English Icrni \vc (Id nut mean Id ini|)ly thai il is the ccjuivalcnt 
of the native term, but simply that the latter incliulcs the relationshi]) indicated 
hy the English term. 


personal name by which he or she is freely addressed by 
others — that is, by any, except a member of the opposite sex 
who stands in the relationship o{ '' Mura" to them, for such 
may only on very rare occasions speak to one another.^ 
When, as has happened time after time to us, a nati\e says, 
for example, " That man is Oriaka (a personal name , he is 
my Okilial' and you cannot possibh- tell without further 
inquiry whethei* he is the speaker's blood or tribal brother — 
that is, the son of his own father or of some man belonging 
to the same particular group as his father^then the idea that 
the term ^' Okilia" is applied as a polite term of address, or 
in order to avoid the necessity of using a personal name, is at 
once seen to be untenable. 

It is, at all events, a remarkable fact that (apart from the 
organisation of other tribes, in respect of which we are not 
competent to speak, but for which the same fact is vouched 
for by other observers) in all the tribes with which we are 
acquainted, all the terms coincide, without any exception, in 
the recognition of relationships, all of which are dependent 
upon the existence of a classificatory system, the fundamental 
idea of which is that the women of certain groups marr\' the 
men of others. Each tribe has one term applied indiscrimi- 
nately by the man to the woman or women whom he actually 
marries and to all the women whom he might lawfull}- marry — 
that is, who belong to the right group — one term to his actual 
mother and to all the women whom his father might law- 
fully have married ; one term to his actual brother and to all 
the sons of his father's brothers, and so on right through 

^ A child is, at its birth, very often named after the place at which the mother 
imagines she conceived it — that is the spot at which she first becomes aware that 
she is, as the natives say, '■'■ atnunta.''' For instance, the child of a woman who 
believes that she conceived it at Alice Springs is called Atthuriira-rinia, 
" Atthuriira " being the native name of Alice Springs, and " rinia " a suffix mean- 
ing "of" or " belonging to." In addition to the locality name others, which we 
can only call nick-names, are given. These are very popular, and are derived 
from some personal peculiarity or from some fanciful resemblance to a particular 
animal or plant. Every individual has a sacred name, which is especially 
associated with his or her chttriiiga or sacred emiilem, and which is only known 
to the men of his or her own local loteniic group. Details with regartl to the 
names are given in Appendix A. 


the \\lii>le s\-stem. To this it ma)- be added that, if these be 
not terms of relationship, then the language of these tribes is 
absolutel)' devoid of an)- such.^ 

A threat part of the difficulty in understanding these terms 
lies in the fact that we have amongst ourselves no terms 
which conve)' the same idea of relationship as do those of 
savage peoples. When once, for exaniple, the term " J//V;," 
used amongst the Arunta tribe, has been translated b)- the 
English term " mother," an entire!)- wrong impression is apt to 
to conve)-ed. Mia does include the relationshij) which we call 
mother, but it includes a great deal more, and to the Arunta 
native the restriction of the term as used in English is as 
incomprehensible as apparently the extension of the term is 
to white men who arc not accustomed to the native use. To 
understand the native it is simpl)- essential to la)- aside all 
ideas of relationship as counted amongst ourselves. They 
have no \\'ords equivalent to our English words father, mother, 
brother, &:c. A man, for example, will call his actual mother 
"J//V7," but, at the same time, he will appl)- the term not 
only to other grown women, but to a little girl child, provided 
they all belong to the same group. We have, for examjjle, 
asked a full)- grown man who the little child was with whom 
he was pla)-ing, and ha\e received the answer that it was so 
and so, mentioning her j^ersonal name, and that she was his 
Mia. Her own personal name he would use in sjjeaking both 
to her and to us, but the term Mia expressed the relationship 
in which she stood to him. 

We have dwelt somewhat at length upon this because so 
distinguished a writer as Mr. McLennan and others who, 
accepting his dictum, have dealt with the subject, have 
attempted to disprove the supposition that an)- such group 
relationship is actuall)- e-xjiressed in the terms of relationship 
u.sed b)- the Australian natives. Eor this reason we have, as 

* To tliis may be added, .still furUicr, the fad ihal Uierc do uxi-st certain terms 
applied by men to certain particular individuals which are in the strict sense 
"terms of address." A man, for example, addresses ]iarticular men who look 
part in his initiation ceremonies by such terms as Tapunga, Urinthantinia, &c., 
which express no relationship, and the significance <>f which is entirely distinct 
fronj the true terms of relationship now dealt with. 


carefull)' and minutely as possible, and without prejudice in 
favour of one theory or the other, examined into the social 
organisation of the tribes with which we have come into 
contact. The conclusion to which we have come is that we 
do not see how the facts, which will now be detailed and 
upon a consideration of which this conclusion is based, can 
receiv-e any satisfactory explanation except on the theor}- of 
the former existence of group marriage, and further, that this 
has of necessity given rise to the terms of relationship used 
by the Australian natives. As will be seen, group marriage, 
in a modified but }-et most unmistakable wa}', occurs as an 
actual system in one of the tribes with which we are dealing. 

We may now pass on to consider first the organisation of 
the Urabunna tribe, as this represents a less complex con 
dition than the second type which is met with in the Arunta 
and other tribes. 

In reference to the names to apply to the various divisions 
of the tribe, we have felt considerable difficulty, and have 
decided that as such terms as phratr}-, gens, clan, &c., have 
all of them a definite significance, and, as applied to Australian 
tribes, may be misleading, it is better to use the term class 
as apph'ing to the two main exogamous intermarrying groups, 
each of which forms a moiety of the tribe, and the term sub- 
class as applying to the divisions of the class. We therefore 
use these terms with this significance.^ 

The Urabunna organisation appears to be, if not identical 
with, at least very closely similar to, that of the Dieri tribe, 
Avhose territor}' adjoins it on the south, and which has been 
dealt with previously b\- r^Ir. Howitt."- The whole tribe is 

^ Mr. Roth, in his work on the North-West Central (^)ueensland aborigines, has 
proposed a series of terms, Patronym, Gamomatronym, Predomatronym, Autonym, 
^;c. Apart from the fact that these appear to us to be too cumbersome, the 
termination " nym " which is common to them all implies, as it were, a certain 
equivalency amongst them which does not exist, and therefore they appear to us 
to be somewhat misleading. We shall merely use the terms class, sub-class, 
totem name, sacred name, terms of relationship, terms of address, personal name, 
status term. 

- Cf. Howitt, "The Dieri and other Kindred Tribes of Central Australia," 
your. Anth. Inst., vol. xx. p. 30; see also Gason, The Dieyerie Tribe qf 
Australian Aborigines. The classes Matthurie and Kirarawa of the Urabunna 
are the equivalents of the Matteri and Karara of the Dieri. 


divided up into two exogamous intermarrj-ing classes, which 
are respectively called Matthurie and Kirarawa, and the 
members of each of these again are divided into a series 
of totemic groups, for which the nati\c name is Tlmiitluoniie. 
A Matthurie man must marr\- a Kirarawa woman, and not 
onl)- this, but a man of one totem must marry a woman of 
another totem, certain totems being confined to each of the 
exogamous classes. Thus a dingo marries a waterhen, a 
cicada a crow, an emu a rat, a wild turkc)' a cloud, a swan 
a pelican, and so on.^ 

The organisation can be shown as represented in the 
following table, only a liinitcd number of the totems being 
indicated : — 

Class. Totem. 

Wild iliick (Inyarrie). 
( Cicada (Wuliiimmfra). 

I)inj;jo (Matla) 

Kimi (\Varrat;iUi). 
I Wild turkey (Kalalhuna) 

Black swan (Cvili), iVc. 


Cloud (Kurara). 
I Carpel snake (Wahnia . 
Lace lizard (Capirie). 
kirarawa Pelican (Uranlha). 

I Water hen (Kutnichilli). 
^ Crow (Wakala), &c. 

Descent is coimted thruugh the mother, both as regards 
class and totem, so that we can represent marriage and 
descent as counted in the Urabinina tribe b\- the following 

' The totemic systems of the tribes inhabiting the area of country which centres 
in Lake Eyre and of which the Urabunna is one require further investigation. 
We have not been able to acquire .such detailed information with regard to this 
tribe as we have in the case of the Arunta. The most difficult point todetermim- 
is exactly what totems intermarry. Whilst the intermarriage of the totems now 
described is correct .so far as it goes, further investigation may reveal the fact that. 
for example, a man of the crow totem may marry women of other totems besides 
the cicada. This, however, will not aff'ect the validity (jf the tables and genea- 
logical tree now given. The fundamental fact is that men <jf one moiety of the 
tribe must marry women of the other. 


m. Dingo Matthurie 


f. Water-hen Kirarawa 


diagram, in which the letter f indicates the female and the 

letter m the male. 

m. Water-hen Kirarawa 
f. Dingo Matthurie 

m. or f. Dingo Matthurie 

f. Water-hen Kirarawa 


m. Dingo Matthurie 

m. or f. Water-hen Kirarawa 

There are still further restrictions to marriage than those 
which merely enact that a dingo man must marry a water- 
hen woman, and it is here that we are brought into contact 
with the terms of relationship. Enquiring into case after 
case you meet constantly, in this matter of restriction in 
regard to marriage, with the reply that though a particular 
woman belongs to the right totem into which a man must 
marry, yet there is a further restriction preventing marriage 
in this particular case. For example, not every dingo may 
marry a particular water-hen woman. To a dingo man all 
water-hen women are divided into four groups, the members 
of which respectively stand to him in the relationship of 
(i) Noivillie or father's sisters ; (2) Biaka, children or brothers' 
children ; (3) Apillia, mother's younger brothers' daughters ; 
(4) Niipa, mother's elder brothers' daughters. It will of course 
be understood that a mother's brother's child is identical with 
a father's sister's child, and that the fathers and brothers may 
be either blood or tribal. 

We can, amongst the individuals named, distinguish women 
of three different levels of generation ; the Xoivillie belong 
to that of the father and to still older generations ; the Biaka 
to younger ones and the Apillia and Niipa to the same gene- 
ration as the individual concerned. A man can only marry 
women who stand to him in the relationship of Niipa, that is, 
are the children of his mother's elder brothers blood or tribal, 
or, what is the same thing, of his father's elder sisters. The 
mother of a man's Niipa is Nowillie to him, and any woman 
of that relationship is Mura to him and he to her, and they 
must not speak to one another. In connection with this it 


must be remembered that it is not necessary for the woman 
to actually have a daughter for her to be Xonnilic and so 
Mum to the man, the very fact that she was born a sister 
of his father places her in this relationship. In the same way 
Niipa, the term applied to a woman with whom it is lawful 
for a man to have marital relations, and which is thus the 
term applied to a wife, cannot, strictly speaking, be regarded 
as at all the equivalent of the latter term. It is applied indis- 
criminately b)' a dingo man to each and every member of a 
group of water-hen women with one or more of whom he 
may perhaps actuall}' have marital relations, but with any 
one of whom it is lawful and jjossible for him to do so. When 
we sa)' possible for him to have such marital relations, we 
mean that any one women might be assigned to him, 
as they all, in fact, stand to him in the relationship of potential 

The word Xnpa is without any exception applied indis- 
criminatel}' b}- men of a particular group to women of another 
group, and vice versa, and simply implies a member of a group 
of possible wives or husbands as the case may be. 

While this is so, it must be remembered that in actual prac- 
tice each individual man has one or perhaps two of these 
Nupa women who are specially attached to himself and live 
with him in his own camp. In addition to them, however, 
each man has certain Nupa women, beyond the limited 
number just referred to, \\ ith whom he stands in the rela- 
tionship of Pirauugaru} To women who are the Pirautigaru 
of a man (the term is a reciprocal one), the latter has access 
under certain conditions, so that they ma)- be considered as 
accessory wives. 

The result is that in the L'rabunna tribe ever}' woman is 
the special Nupa of one particular man, but at the same time 
he has no exclusive right to her as she is the Pirauugaru of 
certain other men who also have the right of access to her. 
Looked at from the j;oint of view of the man his Pirauiigaru 
are a limited number of the women who stand in the relation- 
ship of Nupa to him. There is no such thing as one man 

' The exact e<|uivalent <>f the I'irauru of the Dicri lril)e. Cf. Huwiil, Trans. 
R. S. Vict., vol. i. , pi. ii., 18S9, p. 96. 


having the exclusive right to one woman ; the elder brothers, 
or Niithie, of the latter, in whose hands the matter lies, will 
give one man a preferential right, but at the same time they 
will give other men of the same group a secondary right to 
her. Individual marriage does not exist either in name or 
in practice in the Urabunna tribe. 

The initiation in regard to establishing the relationship of 
Piranngarii between a man and a woman must be taken b\' 
the elder brothers, but the arrangement must receive the sanc- 
tion of the old men of the group before it can take effect. As 
a matter of actual practice, this relationship is usually estab- 
lished at times when considerable numbers of the tribe are 
gathered together to perform important ceremonies, and when 
these and other matters of importance which require the con- 
sideration of the old men are discussed and settled. The 
number of a man's Piraiaigarii depend entirely upon the 
measure of his power and popularit\- ; if he be what is called 
" urkfi," a word which implies much the same as our word 
" influential," he will have a considerable number, if he be 
insignificant or unpopular, then he will meet with scant}' 

A woman ma\' be Pirainigaru to a number of men, and as 
a general rule men and women who are Pirauugaru to one 
another are to be found living grouped together. A man 
may alwa}'s lend his wife, that is, the woman to whom he 
has the first right, to another man, provided always he be 
her Nnpa, without the relationship of Pirau7igani existing 
between the two, but unless this relationship exists, no man 
has any right of access to a woman. Occasionally, but 
rarely, it happens that a man attempts to prevent his wife's 
Piraiitigaru from having access to her, but this leads to a 
fight and the husband is looked upon as churlish. When 
visiting distant groups where, in all likelihood, the husband 
has no Piraiingani, it is customary for other men of his own 
class to offer him the loan of one or more of their Nupa 
women, and a man, besides lending a woman over whom he 
has the first right, will also lend his Piraitngaj-u. 

All the children of women who are Xupa to any man, 
whether they are his special Xupas, or Pirauugaru, or Nupa 


women with whom he has no marital relations, call him Nia, 
and he calls them Biaka. Whilst naturally there is a closer 
tie between a man and the children of the women who 
habituall)' live in camp with him, still there is no name to 
distinguish between the children of his special Xupa and 
those of an}' other woman to whom he is Nupa, but w ith 
whom he has no marital relations. All Biaka, or children of 
men who are at the same le\el in the generation and belong 
to the same class and totem, are regarded as the common 
children of these men, and in the same waj- the latter are 
regarded collectivel}' by the Biaka as their Xia. 

It will thus be seen that in the Urabunna tribe we have 
apparently an organisation closel)' similar to that described 
b\- Mr. Howitt as occurring in the Dieri tribe with which it 
is associated locally. It will also be evident that in both 
these tribes there is what can onl\- be described as a modified 
form of grouy-marriage, the important features of which ma)- 
be summarised as follows. We have : — 

(i) A group of men all of whom belong to one moiet}- of 
the tribe who are regarded as the Nupas or possible husbands 
of a group of women who belong to the other moiet\' of the 

(2) One or more women specially allotted to one particular 
man, each standing in the relationship of Niipa to the other, 
but no man haxing exclusive right to any one woman, onU' a 
preferential right. 

(3) -^ group of men who stand in the relationship of 
Pirauiigaru to a group of women selected from amongst 
those to whom they are Nupa. In other words, a group of 
women of a certain designation are actuall)' the wives of a 
group of men of another designation. 

A curious feature in the social organisation of the Urabunna 
tribe is the restriction in accordance with which a man's wife 
must belong to what w^e may call the senior side of the tribe 
so far as he himself is concerned. He is only Nupa to the 
female children of the elder brothers of his mother, or what 
is exactl\- the same thing, to those of the elder sisters of his 
father. It follows from this that a woman is only Nupa to 
men on the junior side of the tribe so far as she is concernec'. 


This marked distinction between elder and \-ounger brothers 
and sisters is a striking feature, not only in tribes such as the 
Urabunna, in which descent is counted in the female line, but 
also in tribes such as the Arunta in which descent is counted 
in the male line. 

If we draw up a genealogical tree in the Urabunna tribe, 
placing the elder members on the left side and the younger 
members on the right side, then every woman's Niipa lies to 
the right, and ever}' man's to the left side of his or her position 
in the genealogical tree. 

The following table gives the terms of relationship as they 
exist amongst the Urabunna tribe. It will be seen that we 
have given three columns of names, (i) the native names, (2) 
the exact equivalent of the native names in our English 
terms, and (3) the English terms included wholly or partly 
in the native terms. In this way it will be seen, for example, 
that there are no native words at all equivalent to our 
English terms cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew ; in fact, as we 
have said before, unless all ideas of terms of relationship as 
counted amongst ourselves be abandoned, it is useless to \.xy 
and understand the native terms. Xo native can understand 
how we can possibly apply the same term cousin to children 
of the brothers of a father and at the same time to children 
of the sisters of a father. In the same wa}' it will be seen 
that a brother's children are perfecth' distinct from those of a 
sister ; if I am, say a crow man, then my brothers' children 
are born cicadas and my sisters' children are born crows. As 
m}- own children are cicadas, I naturally have a term in com- 
mon between them and the cicada offspring of my brothers, 
and quite a different term for the crow children of my sisters. 

It will be seen on examining the table that no man or 
woman applies the same name to, for example, both a crow 
and a cicada, and further still, that all the names are applied 
to groups of individuals all of whom stand in a definite 
relationship to the individual by whom the term is used. 

In addition to the table we have also drawn up a genealo- 
gical tree which will perhaps aid in explaining what is 
without doubt a somewhat intricate subject, and in the 
table we have numbered each individual, and taking a par- 
ticular individual have represented in tabular form the names 




which he appHes to the other members of the group so as to 
include and illustrate all the various terms as used.^ 

Table of Relationship Terms. Urabunna Tribe. 

English Terms, in 

eluded 'Mholly or 

partly in the 

Katirc Terms. 









Native Terms. Actual Relationship expressed in 

English Terms. 
Nia Father 

Father's brothers, blood and tribal 
Kawkuka Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 

Wife's father 

Husband's father 
Luka Mother 

Mother's elder sisters, blood and tribal 
Namuma Mother's younger sisters, blood and tribal 
Nowillie Father's sisters, blood and tribal 

Grandmother on father's side,blood and triljal Clranilmother. 

Husband's mother Mother-in-law. 

Wife's mother 
Biaka Sons Son. 

Daughters Daughter. 

Brother's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nejihew and niece. 

Thidnurra Sister's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nejihew and niece. 
Nuthie Elder brother Brother. 

Father's elder brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin. 
Kakua Elder sisters .Sister. 

Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood and Cousin, 
Kujjuka Younger brothers Brother. 

Father's younger brothers' sons, blood and Cousin. 

Younger sisters 

Father's younger brothers' tlaughters, lilood 
and tril)al 
Wittewa Father's younger sisters' sons 

Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal 
Wife's brother 
Nupa Father's elder sisters' daughters, blood ami 

Apillia Husl)and's sisters, blood and tribal 

Father's younger sisters' daughters 
Kadnini ( Irandfather on father's side, blood and tribal 
(irandmother on mother's side, blood ancl 

Sons children 
Thunthi Grandfather on mother's side, blood and 
Daughter's children. 





1 lusband. 





( Irandchildren. 

^ In the table we have only indicated the tt)temic name : it will be understood 
that every cicada man and woman belongs to the Matthurie class, and every crow 
to the Kirarawa. 

A. — Tahlf. of Descent in the Ukahunna Tribe. 

■ m. i 15. Crow. f. 

acl.i. ni. I 43. CI. 


If we take the man numbered 25 in the genealogical tree 
we shall find that he applies the following names to the 
various individuals represented. It will be noticed that in 
connection with the woman numbered 14 we have given a 
separate branch line of descent, so as to be able to indicate 
the grand-parents on the maternal as well as the paternal 

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the 
various individuals : — 

Kadnini, to 

the inc 



I, 2, b, 53, 54. 


3> 5. 9. 17- 


a, 4, 55> 56. 



6, 7, 8, 18. 



10, 12, 16. 



13. 14- 


II, 15. 



19, 30. 32, 37, 40. 



3i> 33. 39- 



20, 36, 38. 



22, 24. 



21, 23. 



26, 27, 28, 29, 34, 35 



41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48 



43, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52 

It may perhaps be wondered how the natives themselves 
iDecome acquainted with what is to the average white man so 
apparently elaborate and even, at first sight, complicated, a 
scheme. In the first place it is not in reality so complicated 
as it appears, and if we lay aside all pre-conceived ideas of 
relationship and remember that the terms are constantly 
being used by the natives who live, so to speak, surrounded 
with object lessons in the form of the members of the local 
group, then the difficulty largely vanishes. Another thing to 
be remembered is that the relationship of one native to 
another is one of the most important points with which each 
individual must be acquainted. There are certain customs 
which are enforced by long usage and according to which 

^ That is supposing 13 to be an elder sister, and 11 and 15 younger sisters 
(blood or tril)al) of 14. 

- That is if 39 lie a daughter of a younger brother of 14. 
■* 36 is regarded as the daughter of an elder sister of 14. 

F 2 


men and women of particular degrees of relationship may 
alone have marital relations, or ma\- not speak to one another, 
or according to which one individual has to do certain things 
for another, such as providing the latter with food or with 
hair, as the case may be, and any breach of these customs is 
severel}' punished. The elder men of each group very 
carefully keep alive these customs, man\- of which are of 
considerable benefit to themselves, and when, as at an\' 
important ceremony, different groups are gathered together, 
then matters such as these are discussed, and in this wa}- a 
knowledge of the various relationships is both gained and 
kept alive. When a man comes from a distant group, unless 
he be well known to the group into which he has come, the 
old men talk the matter o\er and ver)- soon decide as to his 

It sometimes happens, in fact not infrequently, that a man 
from the neighbouring Arunta tribe comes to live amongst 
the Urabunna. In the former where it adjoins the latter 
there are four sub-classes, viz., Bukhara and Panunga, Kumara, 
and Purula, and in addition descent is counted in the male 
line. Accordingl)' the men of the Bukhara and Purula 
classes are regarded as the equivalents of the Matthurie 
moiety of the Urabunna tribe, and those of the Panunga and 
Kumara classes as the equivalents of the Kirarawa. In just 
the same way a Matthurie man going into the Arunta tribe 
becomes either a Bukhara or Purula, and a Kirarawa man 
becomes either a Panunga or a Kumara man. Which of the 
two a Matthurie man belongs to, is decided by the old men 
of the group into which he goes. Sometimes a man will take 
up his abode permanently, or for a long time, amongst the 
strange tribe, in which case, if it be decided, for example, that 
he is a Bukhara, then his children will be born Panunga, that 
is the\' belong to his own adopted moiet}-. He has, of course, 
to marr}' a Kumara woman, or if he be already provided with 
a wife, then she is regarded as a Kumara, and if he goes back 
into his own tribe then his wife is regarded as a Kirarawa 
and the children also take the same name. 

This deliberate change in the grouping of the classes and 
sub-classes so as to make them fit in with the maternal line 


of descent or with the paternal, as the case ma}- be, will be 
more easily understood from the accompanying table. 

Arunta. Urabiinna arrangefnent of the Aninta snb-classes. 

Bukhara') ■ ^ . Bukhara) • . « /at ^,i • \ 

Ti nioiety A ri 1 moiety A (.Matthune). 

Fanunga ( -' I'urula J 

Kumara 1 ■ . -o Panunra"\ • » r> /t-- \ 

Purula r'^'^'y ^ Kumara /°"°^^^>' ^ (^-^■-a>-awa). 

The working out of this with the result that the children 
belong to the right moiety of the tribe into which the man 
has gone may be rendered clear by taking one or two 
particular examples. 

Suppose that a Matthurie man goes into the Arunta tribe, 
then he is told by the old men of the group into which he has 
gone that he is, say, a Bukhara. Accordingly he marries a 
Kumara woman (or if, which is not very likely, he has 
brought a woman . with him, then she is regarded as a 
Kumara) and his children will be Panunga, or, in other words, 
pass into the father's moiety as the sub-classes are arranged 
in the Arunta, but not into that of the mother as they are 
arranged amongst the Urabunna. 

Again, suppose a Purula man from the Arunta tribe takes 
up his abode amongst the Urabunna. He becomes a Alatthurie, 
and as such must marry a Kirarawa (or if married his wife is 
regarded as such). His children are Kirarawa, which includes 
the sub-class Kumara into which they would have passed in 
the Arunta tribe, and to which they will belong if ever they 
go into the latter. 

These are not merely hypothetical cases but are, in the 
district where the two tribes come in contact with one another, 
of by no means infrequent occurrence ; and, without laying 
undue stress upon the matter, this deliberate changing of the 
method of grouping the sub-classes so as to allow of the descent 
being counted in either the male or female line according to 
the necessity of the case, is of interest as indicating the fact 
that the natives are quite capable of thinking such things out 
for themselves. It is indeed not perhaps without a certain 
suggestiveness in regard to the difficult question of how a 
change in the line of descent might possibly be brought 


We may now turn to the consideration of the Arunta tribe 
in which descent is counted in the male Hne, and we may 
regard the Arunta as typical of the large group of tribes 
inhabiting the centre of the continent from Lake Eyre in the 
south to near Port Darwin in the north, in which descent is thus 
counted. The tribes with the classificator}- s}-stems of which 
we have knowledge are the Arunta, Ilpirra, Iliaura, Kaitish^ 
Walpari, Warramunga, Waagai, and Bingongina, which occupy 
a range of country extending from the latitude of Macumba 
River in the south to about that of Powell's Creek in the 
north, that is over an area measuring from north to south some 
seven hundred and seventy miles (Fig. i). 

In regard to the organisation of the Arunta tribe, with 
\\hich \\e shall now deal in detail, it may at the outset be 
mentioned that the existence of four sub-classes in the 
southern part of the tribe, and of eight in the northern, appears 
at first sight to indicate that in the latter the organisation is 
more complex. In reality, though without having distinct 
names applied to them, each one of the four sub-classes met 
with in the south is actually divided into two. The four 
are Panunga and Bukhara, Purula and Kumara ; the first 
two forming one moiety of the tribe, and the latter two 
forming another. In camp, for example, the Panunga and 
Bukhara always camp together separated from the Purula 
and Kumara by some natural feature such as a creek. The 
Panunga and Bukhara speak of themselves as Nakrakia, and 
of the Purula and Kumara as Alulyannka — the terms being 
reciprocal. Further details with regard to this, and evidence 
of this division into two moieties, are given in connection with 
the discussion of the Churinga and totems, and in the 
account of the Engwura. 

The marriage .system is, in broad outline, omitting at 
present certain details which will be referred to shortly, as 
follows. A Bukhara man marries a Kumara woman and 
their children are Panunga ; a Purula man marries a Panunga 
woman and their children are Kumara ; a Panunga man 
marries a Purula woman and their children are Bukhara; a 
Kumara man marries a Bukhara woman and their children 
are Purula. 


This may be graphically expressed following Mr. Hovvitt's 
plan (as already done by Dr. Stirling) in the following way.^ 

Males. Females. 

Panunga^:_:f _,:> Kumara 

Bukhara «- < ~^ Purula 

Purula ^ -? ~^^ Bukhara 

Kumara 5- "^^ Panunga 

In these diagrams the double arrow indicates the marriage 
connections and the single ones point to the name of the class 
of the children. 

As a matter of fact these diagrams as they stand, though 
perfectly correct in stating, for example, that a Panunga man 
marries a Purula woman, are incomplete in that they do not 
show the important point that to a Panunga man the Purula 
women are divided into two groups the members of one of 
whom stand to him in the relationship of Uiiawa whom he may 
marry, while the members of the other stand in the relationship 
of Unkidla whom he may not marry. This fact is one of very 
considerable importance. Each of the four sub-classes is thus 
divided into two, the members of which stand respectively 
in the relationship of Ipniunna to each other. We can 
represent this graphically as follows, taking, for the sake of 
simplicity, only two sub-classes, the divisions of one being 
represented by the letters K and B, and of the other by the 
letters C and D. 

Sub-class. Division. Division. Sub-class. 

Panunga I 

A< >C \ p , 

A stands in the relationship of Utiawa to C, IpJiuimia to B, 
and Unkulla to D. In other words a woman who is Unkulla 
to me is Ipviuniia to my wife. All women of group C (myself 
belonging to A), my wife calls sisters — Uugaraitcha if they 
be elder sisters, and Itin if they be younger sisters ; and all of 

^ An outline of the organisation of the Arunta tribe has been given by Messrs. 
Stirling and Gillen in the Report of the Horn Expedition to Central Australia. 


them stand in the relationship of Unai^a to mj-self ;• but the 
other Purula women whom m\' wife calls IpniiDiiia are 
Unkulla to me and I ma}- not marr}- them. 

It is somewhat perplexing after learning that a Panunga 
man must marry a Purula woman to meet with the statement, 
when inquiring into particular cases, that a given Panunga 
man must not marry a ])articular Purula woman, but in the 
northern part of the tribe matters are simplified by the 
existence of distinct names for the two groups ; the relation- 
ship term of Ipniimna still exists, but if I am, for example, a 
Panunga man, then all my Ipmumia men and women are 
designated by the term Vkiiaria, and in the following tables 
the eight divisions are laid down, and it will be noticed that 
the old name is used for one-half and a new name adopted 
for the other. 

,, f l'anung.i<— 

T, ,.u rBuIthara<- 
Bulthara . , 

\^ Appungcrla< 

— ^Purula 1 ,. , 
->Ungal a j 

-»Kumara 1 ,. 

N.1T I •. u J-Kumara 
-— ^UmbitchanaJ 

The double arrows indicate the marriage connections. 

This division into eight has been adopted (or rather the 
names for the four new divisions have been), in recent times 
by the Arunta tribe from the Ilpirra tribe which adjoins the 
former on the north, and the use of them is, at the present 
time, spreading southwards. At the Kngwura ceremony 
which we witnessed men of the Ilpirra tribe were present, as 
well as a large number of others from the southern part of the 
Arunta amongst whom the four new names are not }-et in use. 

We have found the following table of considerable service 
to ourselves in working as, by its means, the various relation- 
ships fall into regular arrangement and can be readily 





This table was drawn up in the first instance in order to 
show the marriage relationships and the divisions into which 


the children pass. Thus, reading across the page, men of the 
sub-classes shown in column i must marry women of the 
sub-classes shown in column 2. For example, a Panunga 
man marries a Purula woman, an Uknaria man an Ungalla 
woman, and so on. Column 3 in the same way indicates 
their children, those of a Panunga man and a Purula woman 
being Appungerta, those of an Uknaria man and an Ungalla 
woman being Bukhara, &c. In the same way if a man of 
one of the sub-classes in column 2 marries a woman in one 
of those in column i, then their children are as represented 
in column 4. That is, a Purula man marries a Panunga 
woman and their children are Kumara, and so on. 

When, however, we came to deal with the various terms of 
relationship used in the tribe, we found that they also fell 
into orderly arrangement in the table, and could be easily 
shown by means of it. 

It will be seen from the table that, as compared with the 
Urabunna tribe, marriage appears to be very much more 
restricted, because a man may only marry a woman who 
belongs to one of eight divisions into which the whole is 
divided. In the Arunta tribe, however, as will be described 
in the chapter dealing with the totems, there is, unlike most 
Australian tribes, no restriction whatever, so far as the totems 
are concerned. It may therefore be, perhaps, a matter of doubt 
as to how far the totems of the Arunta are the exact equivalents 
of those yet described as existing amongst other Australian 
tribes. Every Arunta native thinks that his ancestor in the 
Alcheringa ^ was the descendant of the animal or plant, or at 
least was immediately associated with the object the name of 
which he bears as his totemic name. In many Australian 
tribes it seems to be a general custom that a man must 
not eat or injure his totem, whereas amongst the Arunta 
there are special occasions on which the totem is eaten, 
and there is no rule absolutely forbidding the eating of 
the totem at other times, though it is clearly understood 
that it must only be partaken of very sparingly. How- 
ever, though the totems of the Arunta are in certain respects 

^ The Alcheringa is the name appHed to the far distant past with which the 
earliest traditions of the trilie deal. 


unlike those yet described in other Australian tribes, still there 
can be no doubt but that the\' are correctly designated by 
this name, the most important feature in which the\- differ 
from those of other parts of Australia being that they have 
no reference to customs concerning marriage. 

In the Arunta tribe, unlike the Urabunna, there is, as soon 
as marriage has taken place, a restriction, except on certain 
special occasions which are subsequently described, of a 
particular woman to a particular man, or rather, a man has 
an exclusive right to one special woman though he may of 
his own free will lend her to other men. 

Despite this fact, there is no term applied to a woman who 
is thus the peculiar property of one man, the woman is 
simply spoken of as Unaiva to the man in just the same wa)- 
in which all the other women are who belong to the group 
from which the man's wife must come. The terms of 
relationship are not individual terms, but, just as in the 
Urabunna and other tribes in some of which we have a form of 
group marriage existing as an actual institution at the present 
day,the termsaregroup terms. To take an example — a Panunga 
man will have some special woman allotted to him as an 
individual wife, but the only term which he aj^plies to her is 
Uuawa, and that term he also ai:)plies to all the women of her 
group, each of whom might lawfull}^ have been allotted to 
him. She is one out of a group of potential wives. When, 
again, a man lends his wife, he onl)- does so to a member of 
his own grouj), that is to a man to whom, without having 
been allotted to him, the woman stands in the relationship of 
Unawa just as she does to the man to whom she has been 
allotted. In the southern part of the tribe, where only the four 
divisions exist, a Panunga man will not lend his Utiawa to a 
man who belongs to the half of the Panunga to which he 
himself does not belong, that is he will not lend her to an 
Ipinujina man but onh' to men who are Okilia or Itia to him ; 
and in the same way he will only have lent to him a Purula 
woman to whom he is Unaiva and not one to whom he is 
l')ikulla. In the northern division the original Panunga is 
divided up into Panunga and Ungalla, and here a Panunga 
man only lends his wife to a Panunga, an Ungalla to an 


U ngalla, and so oru In this northern part in must be remem- 
bered that the Panunga men are the exact equivalents to 
another Panunga man of the Okilia and Itia, that is the tribal 
brothers of the southern part, while the Ungalla correspond 
to the Ipinu7ina. 

The same group terms are applied in all other cases. 
Thus a man calls his own children Allira, and applies the 
same term to all his blood and tribal brothers' children, while 
all his sisters' children are Uinba. If, again, I am a Panunga 
man, then my wife is Purula, and her actual father is a 
Kumara man. Not only do I call this particular man 
Ikuntera or father-in-law, but, where the eight divisions are in 
force, I apply the same name to all Kumara men. They are 
one and all the fathers of women whom it is lawful for me to 

That this group relationship is actually recognised is made 
clear by a variet}' of facts. If, for example, one of my 
Ikuntera dies, it is my duty to cut my shoulders with a stone 
knife as a mark of sorrow. If I neglect to do this, then any 
one of the men who are Ikuntera to me has the right to take 
away my wife and give her to some other man to whom she 
is VnaiK.<a. I have not only, supposing it to be the actual 
father of my wife who has died, neglected to do my duty to 
him, but I have offended the group collectively, and any 
member of that group may punish me. Again, if I am out 
hunting and have caught game, and while carrying this home 
to my camp I chance to meet a man standing to me in the 
relationship of Ikuntera, I should at once have to drop the 
food, which, from the fact of its having been seen by any one 
member of that group, has become tabu to me. 

In just the same way amongst the women we see clear 
instances of customs founded on the existence of group 
relationship. When a child dies not only does the actual 
Mia, or mother, cut herself, but all the sisters of the latter, 
who also are Mia to the dead child, cut themselves. All 
women call their own children Uviba, and apply precisel}" the 
same term to the children of their sisters, blood and tribal. 

The tables which follow give the terms of relationship 
existing amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, Kaitish and \\'arra- 



munga, and, in the case of the Arunta, we have drawn up a 
genealogical tree and, taking a man and his alloted Unaiva, 
have arranged in tabular form the various terms which they 
respectively apply to other individuals, whose relationship to 
them can be seen on the tree. 

For the purpose of comparison we have made the genealo- 
gical tree identical with that used in the case of the Urabunna 
tribe, the individuals being numbered alike on both trees. 

Table of Relationshit Terms. Arunta Tribe. 

Native Terms. 



AUira (man 

Actual Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 


Father's brothers, blood antl tribal 

Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 


Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 

Father's sisters, blood and tribal 

English Terms, in- 
eluded 'wholly or 

partly in the 
Native Terms. 






Sons Son. 

Daughters I )aughier. 

Sons and daughters of brothers, blood Nejihew and niece, 
and tribal 

Allira (woman Sons and daughters of brothers, blood Nephew and niece, 
speaking) and tribal 

Umlxi (man 

Umba (woman Sons and daughters Son. 

speaking) Sons and daughters of sisters, blood and Daughter. 

tribal Nephew and niece. 

Okilia Elder brothers Brother. 

Sons of father's elder brothers, l)lood and Cousin, 

Sons and daughters of sisters, blood and Nejihew and niece, 

Itia (Witia) 
Itia (Quitia) 

Unawa (man 

Younger brothers Brother. 

Sons of father's younger brothers, blood Cousin, 
and tribal 

Elder sisters Sister. 

Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood Cousin, 
and tribal 

Younger sisters Sister. 

Father's younger brothers' daughters. Cousin, 
blood and tribal 

Father's sisters' sons and daughters, Cousin. 
Ijlood and tribal 


Brothers' wives, blood and tribal 




Native Terms. 

Unawa (woman 

Umbirna (male 

Intinga (female 

Ilchella (female 





Ikuntera (man 

Mura (man 

Mura (woman 

Actual Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 


Sisters" husband, blood and tribal 

Wife's brother 

Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal 

Husband's sisters, blood and tribal 

Father's sisters' daughters, blood and 

Grandfather, father's side 
Grandchild (son's child) 

Grandfather, mother's side 
Grandchild (daughter's child) 

Grandmother, father's side 

Grandmother, mother's side 

Wife's father, blood and tribal 

Wife's mother, blood and tribal 
Wife's mother's brothers, blood and 

Husband's mothers, blood and tribal 
Husband's mother's brothers, blood and 

Nimmera( woman Husband's father, blood and tribal 

English Terms, 

included wholly 

or partly in the 

Native Terms. 














Table of Relationship Terms. Luritcha Tribe. 

Kartu Father. 

Pather's brothers, l:>lood and tribal 

Gammeru Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 

Yaku Mother. 

Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 
Kurntili Father's sisters, blood and triljal 

Katha Sons 

Brother's sons, blood and tril)al 

Urntali Daughters 

Brother's daughters, blood and tribal 

Ukari Sister s sons 

Sister's daughters, blood and triljal 

Kurta Elder brother 

Father's elder brothers' sons, blood and 













Native Terms. 

Actual Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 

English Terms, 
imliidcd iL'holly 
or partly in the 
A'atire Terms. 


Younger brother 

Father's younger brothers' sons, blood 

and tribal 
Younger sister 
Father's younger brothers' daughters, 

lilood and tribal 




Elder sister 

Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood 
and tribal 



Mother's brothers' sons, blood and trilxal 



>Iother's brothers' daughters, blood and 




Husband's brothers, blood and tribal 


Wife's sisters, blood and tribal 



Sister's husband, l)lood and tribal 
Wife's brother, blood and tribal 



Husband's sisters, blood and tribal 
Brother's wife, blood and tribal 



Grandfather, father's side 
Grandfather's brothers, father's side 



Grandfather, mother's side 
Grandfather's brothers, mother's side 



Grandmother, father's side 
Grandmother's sisters, father's side 



Grandmother, mother's side 
Grandmother's sisters, father's side 


Waputhu (man 

Wife's father 

Wife's father's brothers, l)lo')d and tribal 


Ganimeru( woman Husljand's father 

speaking) llusland's father's brothers, Mood and 


Mingai (woman 

Husband's mother 

Husband's mother's sisters, blood and 



Wife's mother 

Wife's mother's sisters, blood and tribal 

Daughter's husband 


Daughter's husl)and's brothers, blood 
and tribal 



Table of Relationship Terms. Kaitish Tribe. 

Native Terms. 

Acttial Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 

English Terms, 

included wholly or 

partly in the 

Native Terms. 

Akaurli ^ 


Fathers brothers, blood and tribal 



Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 


Arungwa ^ 


Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 



Father's sister 





Brother's sons and daughters 



Nephew and niece. 


Sisters' sons and daughters 

Nephew and niece. 


Elder brother 

Father's elder brothers' sons 



Younger brother 

Father's younger brothers' sons 

Father's younger brothers' daughters 



Elder sister 

Father's elder brothers' daughters 



Mother's brothers' daughters 



Mother's brothers' sons. 





Husband's brothers, blood and tribal 

Sister's husband 

Wife's brothers, blood and tribal 





Husband's sister 


Ilchelii (%s-oman 

Father's sisters' daughters 



Grandfather, father's side 
Grandfather's brothers, father's side 



Grandfather, mother's side 
Grandfather's brothers, mother's side 



Grandmother, father's side 
Grandmothers sisters, father's side 


Aanya or At- 

Grandmother, mother's side 


Grandmother's sisters, mother's side 

^ Father's elder brothers are Akaurli aniaura, younger brothers are Akaurli 

^ Mother's elder sisters are Arungwa apmarla, younger sisters are Arungwa 



Native Terms. 



Actual Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 

Wife's father 
Wife's father's brothers 
Husband's father 
Husband's father's brothers 

Husband's mother 
Husband's mother's sisters. 
Wife's mother 
Wife's mother's sisters. 

English Terms, 

included wholly 

or partly in the 

A'atii'e Terms. 




Table of 

Ciampatcha ^ Father 

Father's brothers, blood and tribal 

Namini Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 

Kurnandi - Mother 

Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 

I'inari Father's sisters, blood and tribal 

Karlakitchi Sons 


Brother's sons and daughters 

Klukulu Sister's son or daughter 

Papirti Elder brother 

Father's elder luother's sons 

Kukatcha Younger brother 

Father's younger brother's sons. 

Younger sister 

Father's younger brother's daughters 

Kajiurlu Elder sister 

Father's elder ])rother's daughters 

Wankili Mother's brothers' sons or daughters 

Kullakulia Husband 

Husband's brothers, blood anil tribal 


Wife's sisters, blood ami tribal 

Kallakalla Sister's husband 

Wife's brothers, blood and tribal 
Husband's sisters, blood and tril)al 

Lina (woman Father's sisters' daughters 


Kangwi;; Grandfather, father's side 

Grandfather's brothers, father's side 

Rel.\tiox.siiii> Terms. Warr.vmung.v Tribe. 







Nephew and niece. 

Nephew and niece. 









* Father's elder brothers are Ciampatcha babati, younger l)rothers are Gamjiatcha 

2 Mother's elder sisters are Kurnandi bithara, younger sisters are Kurnandi 

B. Table ov Descfnt Arunta TKiRr. 

, Ui"l"ith."'-., ii. 38, U 

25. Alppuneerta. i 

^r,. lt,le.,ll,l, m I,.:., l-MKal 



Native Terms. 



Actual Relationship expressed in 
English Terms. 

Grandfather, mother's side 
Grandfather's brothers, mother's side 

C»randmother, mother's side 
Grandmother's sisters, mother's side 

Wife's father 
Wife's father's brothers 
Husband's father 
Husband's father's brothers 

Husband's mother 
Husband's mother's sisters 
Wife's mother 
Wife's mother's sisters 

Daughter's husband 
Daughter's husband's brothers. 

English Terms, 

included wholly 
or partly in the 
Native Terms. 





If we take the man numbered 25 on the genealogical tree, 
which, it ma\- be said, applies to both the Ilpirra and Arunta 
tribes, with slight variation in the names, we shall find that 
he applies the following names to the individuals indicated 
by their respective numbers. It will be noticed that two 
small branch lines are added to show descent in the maternal 

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the 
various individuals : — 

Arunga, to the individuals numbered i, 53, 54. 



U winna, 
















6, 7, 8. 

5. 9- 

a, 55> 56 

\ c, 34> 35- 

d, 19, 20, 30, 31. 


11, 43. 44, 49, 50- 
13, 14, 15, 51- 

12, 16, 52. 

17, 18. 

21, 23. 

22, 24. 

26, 28. 

27, 29. 

41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48. 

32, 36, 38, 39- 

33, 37, 40. 


The woman numbered 38 applies the following names to 
the various individuals : — 

Arunga, to the individuals nunilicred 4. 

Aperla, ,, .. 2, 53, 54. 

Oknia, ,, 10. 

Uwinna, ,, ., 11. 

Chimmia, ,, .. c. 

Ipnninna, ,, .. a, d, 19, 20, 30, 31, 55, 56. 

UnkuUa, ,, .. 34. 

Nimmcra, ,, ,, 6, 7, 8. 

Umha, ,, .. 5,9,41,42,45,46,47,48. 

Mia, ,, .. 17. 

Gammona, ,, ,, 18. 

Mura, ,, ,, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. 

Okilia, ,, ,, 37- 

Ungaraitcha, ,, ,, 36. 

Witia, ,, ,, 40. 

Quitia, ., .. 33, 39. 

Allira, ., ., 43, 44, 49, 50. 

Una-vva, ,, .. 21, 23, 25, 26, 28. 

Ilchella, ,, .. h, 35. 

Intinga, ,, ., 22, 24, 27, 29. 

A comparison of the terms of relationship here set forth 
with those in use amongst other tribes, which have been 
described by Messrs. Howitt and Fison, and more recently 
and in most valuable detail by Mr. Roth, w ill serve to show 
how widely a similar series of terms is in use amongst the 
various Australian tribes. 

We will further exemplif\- the system by taking a man of 
one particular group and describe in detail the \arious relation- 
ships which exist between him and other members of the 
tribe. These and all details given have been derived from 
various individuals and families, and have been corroborated 
time after time. 

After ascertaining the warious relationships we found that 
they could be represented graphicall}- and in orderly arrange- 
ment b}- means of the table alread}' emj)lo)ed, and, as we 
have found this table of the greatest service to ourselves in 
dealing with this somewhat intricate subject, we will make 
use of it here. 


Table I. 

123 4 

fPanunga ( Purula Appungerta Kumara 

(Uknaria \^Ungalla Bukhara Umbitchana 

fBulthara f Kumara Uknaria Purula 

\^ Appungerta (^Umbitchana Panunga Ungalla 

The brackets signify groups, the members of which are 
mutually Ipmitnna to each other. 

Column 3 are the children of men of column i and of 
women of column 2. This applies to groups on the same 
horizontal line in the table. Thus an Appungerta is the 
child of a Panunga man and a Purula woman ; a Panunga is 
the child of an Appungerta man and an Umbitchana woman. 
The same remark applies to all the other relationships 
indicated ; thus a Panunga man is Gainniona to a Kumara. 

Column 4 are the children of men of column 2 and of 
the women of column i. 

A man of column i is Unawa to a woman of column 2 
and vice versa, and Uvibirna to a man of column 2. A 
woman of column 2 is Intinga to a woman of column i, and 
vice versa. 

Column I contains men who are Gannnona of men and 
women of column 4. 

Column 4 contains men who are Ikunto'a or Umba of 
men, and Niinniera of women, of column i. 

Column 2 contains men who are Gaiiwioiia of men and 
women of column 3. 

Column 3 contains men who are Ikuntera or Umba of men, 
and Niinuiera of women, of column 2. 

Men and women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutualh' in the 
relationship of Unkidla or Chinnnia. 

Women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutually in the relation- 
ship of Ilche/la. 

Table II. 
I 23 4 

( Panunga '^ Purula Appungerta ( Kumara \ 

I ( Uknaria \ I Ungalla Bukhara -! ( Umbitchana") ( 

( -j BukharaJ I Kumara Uknaria (^ 4 Purula J ,' 

I Appungerta J Umbitchana Panunga ( Ungalla / 

In column i the larger and smaller brackets on the right 
side indicate the relationship of Uivimia, the overlapping 

G 2 


brackets on the left indicate that of Miira. In cokunn 4 
the reverse holds true, the brackets on the left indicate the 
relationship of Uu'inna, and those on the right side that of 

Taking now the case of an individual member of a j^articular 
group, we ma\' describe as follows the various relationshijjs in 
which he stands with regard to the other members of the 
tribe. We will suppose that this particular individual is an 
Appungerta man living in the northern part of the tribe 
where the division into eight groups exists, and we will 
suppose him to be speaking — 

If I am an Appungerta man then — 

My father is a Panunga. 

All Uknaria are Ipmunria to him and Mura to me — that is, 
I may not speak to them if they be women. The daughters 
of Ungalla men and Uknaria women are Umbitchana and 
Unawa to me — that is, they are women whom I may lawfully 
marry, and one or more of whom arc allotted to me as wives. 
The mother of the woman who is allotted to me is my 

The sons of Uknaria women, that is the brothers of my 
Unawa, are Uinbirna to me ; so that Umbitchana men are 
Umbirna to Appungerta men, and vice versa. 

I call my father Oknia. 

All men whom my father calls Okilia, elder brothers, or 
Witia, younger brother, are Panunga, and they are Oknia to 
me. I call his Okilia, Oknia aniaura, and his Itia, Oknia 

]\I}- Oknids sisters are Panunga, and they are Uzvinna to 
me. That is, Panunga women are Uivinna to Appungerta 

All women whom my wife calls Ungaraitcha, elder sisters, 
or Qnitia, younger sisters, are Umbitchana, and they also are 
Unawa to me. 

All women whom m)' wife calls Ipmiinna are Kumara, and 
they are Unkiilla to me. 

Speaking as an Arunta man living in a part where only 
four are recognised, all the women of my wife's 
class, who in this case would be Kumara, I myself belonging 


to the Bulthara, are divided into two sets, the members of one 
of whom are Unaiva to me, so that I can marry them ; while 
the members of the other are Unkul/a, whom I may not 
marry. The latter are Ipniimna to my wife. I can onl}' 
marry a woman who stands in the relationship of daughter to 
the women of the half of my father's class to which he does 
not belong — that is, who are Ipniunna to him. 

My Ipmujifia are Bulthara. 

My Unktilla women are Kumara, and the}' must marry 
Bulthara men, and their children arc Mura to me. That is, 
the relationship of Mura arises from the marriage of male 
Ipmwma and female Unkulla. This is an important relation- 
ship, as a Jlnra woman is the mother of my wife. 

My Umbirna are Umbitchana men, who are the sons of 
Uknaria women — that is, of my female 2Iiira. 

My U7igaraitcha, elder sisters, and Quitia, younger sisters, 
are Appungerta, and are Unazva to my Uinbtrna, who are 
Umbitchana men. 

The children of m\- Uugaraitclia and Quitia are Ungalla. 
I call them Allira and they call me Gaviniona — that is, 
Appungerta men are Gavimona to Ungalla men and women. 

My own and my brother's children are Allira to me, and I 
am Okuia to them. My mother is Purula. She calls her 
elder sisters Ungaraitcha and her younger ones Quitia. I 
call them all Mia. That is, Purula women are Mia to 
Appungerta men. Her elder sisters I call Mia apinarla, and 
her younger sisters Mia alkulla} 

Speaking again as an Arunta man only recognising four 
sub-classes the women of the class to which my mother 
belongs are divided into two groups, the members of one of 
which have the relationship of Mia to me and those of the 
other that of Uinba. 

The children of the Okilia of my Oknia, that is m}- father's 
elder brothers' children, will be Appungerta as I am, and 
they will be according to sex, my Okilia, elder brothers, or 
Ungaraitcha, elder sisters. 

The children of m}' Okuia! s Uugai-aitcha and of his Quitia 

^ In actual practice these women are usually simply addressed as Mia. 


are Kumara, and arc I'nkii/la to mc and Ipnuinmi to ni)- 

The children of my Oknia's Okili'a call me f^///V^ or younger 
brother, and the children of my Oknias Witia call me Okilia, 
and I call them Witia. 

The children of my Okilia and Witia, that is of my elder 
and younger brothers, call me Oknia, just as my own children 
do, and I call them Allira, and they are Panunga. 

The children of my UngaraitcJia and Qititia, that is of m)- 
sisters, I call Umha, and they are Ungalla. 

That is, once more speaking as an Arunta man recognising 
only four sub-classes, my own and my brother's children go 
into the same sub-class as that to which my father belongs, 
whilst my sister's children go into the sub-class to which my 
mother belongs, but into the half of it to which she does not 
belong. That is, relations whom we class together as nephews 
or nieces as the case may be, are either, in respect to a man, 
Allira, that is, brother's children, or Umba, that is, sister's 
children. It will be noted that the terms Allira and Uuiba 
are applied to individuals of both sexes, so that each of them 
includes individuals whom we call nephews or nieces. 

My male Allira's children are Appungerta, and are Arnuga 
to me and I to them, the term being a reciprocal one. 

My Allira are Panunga and my Uniba are Ungalla, and 
these two are Unkulla to each other. 

My Allira call my UngaraitcJia and Qiiitia, that is, m>' 
elder and younger sisters, Uiuinna. That is, Ajjpungerta 
women are Uiuinna to Panunga men and \\omen. 

The children of my female Allira, that is of m\' daughters, 
are Kumara, and they are Chinimia to me and I to them. 
The term CJiinnnia expresses the relationshijj of grandfather 
or grandchild on the mother's side, just as the term Arnnga the same on the father's side. 

My male Chinunias male children will be I'urula and 
Gaminona to me, that is they are the blood and tribal 
brothers of my ]\Iias. 

My male Chimniias' female children will be Purula and 
Mia to me. 


The children of my female Chiinuiia are Uknaria and are 
Mum to me, and they are the Mias of my wife. 

My sisters are xA-ppungerta and the daughters of my 
father's sisters are Kumara, and therefore stand in the 
relationship of Ilcliella to each other ; the relationship of 
IlcJidla only exists between women. That is, if I am an 
Appungerta man, then my father's sister's sons and daugh- 
ters will be Kumara and Uiikulla to me. If I am an 
Appungerta woman then my father's sister's daughters will 
be IlcJiella to me. 

My mother's mother is Bukhara and is Ipinnujia to me. 

My father's mother is Umbitchana and Apcrla to me. 

There are certain differences in the terms used if a woman 
be speaking which may be noted here. Thus, if I am an 
Appungerta woman, then I call my own and my sister's 
children Uiiiba, but I call my brother's Allira. 

I apply the term Unimpa to brothers and sisters collec- 
tively and also to men and women who are Uiikulla to me. 

The sisters of my husband are Umbitchana, and are lutinga 
to me and Unaiva to my brothers. 

The daughters of my father's sisters are Kumara and 
Ilchella to me. 

The sons of my father's sisters are Kumara and are Unkulla 
to me. 

My husband's father is Ungalla, and I call him and he calls 
me Nimmera ; the same term applies to all men whose sons 
are born Ufiaiua to me. 

There is a special term Tualcha which is applied in the 
case of three particular relationships, or rather is added to 
the usual one in order to show the existence of a special 
connection between the individuals concerned.^ Thus, every 
man calls the members of a particular group by the name of 

' This existence of a special term having regard to the father or mother of a 
husband and wife is probably very general in Australian tribes. It is interesting 
to note that in the tribes studied by Mr. Roth, in which descent is counted in the 
female line, the terms imply a relationship between the mother of the husband 
and the mother of the wife ; in the tribes to which our account refers, and in 
which descent is counted in the male line, the corresponding term refers to a re- 
lationship between the father of the husband and the father of the wife. 


Ikimtera or father-in-law, but the particular one whose daugh- 
ter has actually been assigned to him — whether he has mar- 
ried her or not has nothing to do with the case — he calls 
Ikiintcra-tualcJia. He may have other wives, but unless the 
mutual agreement was made between his and the girl's father 
that he should have the girl to wife, then the father of the 
latter is not spoken of as Tualcha. In the same wa}- the 
special Miira woman to whose daughter a man is betrothed 
in his Mura-tnalclui, and, lastly, the individual who is Ikuutcra- 
tualcha to one man, is Ujiknlla-iualcha to the father of the 
latter. If, for example, I am an Appungerta man, then my 
Ikuntcra-tualcha is an Ungalla man, and he is U)ikiilla-tHalcha 
to my father. 

It will be noticed that distinct names are given to elder 
and younger brothers and elder and younger sisters. Thus 
not only are my elder sisters in blood called UngaraitcJia, 
but the daughters of women whom my mother calls Ungara- 
itcJia are UngaraitcJia to me, and those of women whom my 
mother called Qiiitia are Quitia to me. There are, however, 
certain exceptions to this which are of interest as showing 
the influence of counting descent in the male line. Not in- 
frequentl}' two brothers in blood will marr}' two sisters in 
blood. When this takes place the usual plan is for the elder 
brother to marry the elder sister ; should, however, the elder 
sister marr\' the }'Ounger brother, then seniority is counted 
in the male line. In this case the sons and daughters of the 
younger daughter are the elder brothers and sisters of those 
of the elder sister. 

A curious custom exists with regard to the mutual be- 
haviour of elder and younger sisters and their brothers. A 
man may speak freely to his elder sisters in blood, but those 
who are tribal Uugaraitcha must only be spoken to at a con- 
siderable distance. To younger sisters, blood and tribal, he 
ma)' not speak, or at least, only at such a distance that the 
features are indistinguishable. A man, for example, would 
speak to his tribal Ungnraitcha or elder sister at a distance 
of say forty }-ards, but he would not address his Quitia or 
\'ounger sisters unless the)' were at least lOO )'ards awa)'. 


At night-time Uvgaraitcha and Qiiitia may go to their 
brother's camp, and if he be present they may, sitting in the 
darkness where their faces are not distinguishable, converse 
with his Unazi'a or wife. We cannot discover any explana- 
tion of this restriction in regard to the younger sister ; it can 
hardl}' be supposed that it has anything to do with the dread 
of anything like incest, else why is there not as strong a 
restriction in the case of the elder sisters ? That there is 
some form of tabu, or, as the Arunta natives call it, ckirinja, 
in regard to the }'Ounger sister is shown also by the fact that 
a man can never inherit the Churinga of a deceased younger 
sister, but always inherits, on the other hand, those of a 
deceased elder sister. 

In the tables which follow, w^e give the intermarr}'ing 
groups of seven other tribes corresponding to those of the 
Arunta tribe ; those of the Ilpirra are identical with the 
latter, which indeed, have been derived in their present form 
from the Ilpirra tribe. In all cases, men of column i marry 
women of column 2, and their children are as arranged in 
column 3 ; men of column 2 marry women of column i,and 
their children are represented in column 4. 

In the case of three tribes, Warramunga, Bingongina and 
\\'alpari, the system becomes still further complicated by the 
addition of distinct names for females. These names are 
those printed in brackets. In these cases a man of column i, 
marries a woman of column 2, whose name is in brackets, 
and their children are shown in column 3. In the Warra- 
munga tribe, for example, a Thapanunga man marries a 
Naralu, and their children, if males, are ThajDungerta, and if 
females, Xapungerta. In the same way a Chupilla man 
marries a Xapanunga woman, and their children, if males, 
are Thakomara, if females, Nakomara. 

The tables are arranged so that the equivalent groups in 
the various tribes can be seen at a glance. An Ilpirra 
Panunga man visiting the Waagi is regarded as a Pungarinju, 
and amongst the Bingongina he is a Tchana. An Ilpirra 
Purula woman amongst the Iliaura is regarded as an Upilla, 
and amongst the Bin^ono-ina as a Xala, and so on. 


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Marriage ceremony in the northern Arunta and Ilpirra'^ tribes — Ceremony 
in the southern Arunta — Ceremony in the Kaitish, Warramunga, IHaura, 
Waagai, Bingongina, Walpari and Luritcha tribes — On these occasions 
men standing in a definite relationship to the woman have access to 
her — Ceremonies are of the nature of those descrilied by Sir John Lubbock as 
indicative of " exj^iation for marriage" — To be regarded as rudimentary 
customs — Sexual license during corrobborees in the Arunta, Kaitish, Iliaura 
and Warramunga tribes — This is not, strictly speaking, the lending of wives, 
as it is obligatory — Feeling of sexual jealousy not strongly enough developed 
amongst these tribes to j^revent the occurrence of general intercourse or 
lending of wives — The putting of a man to death for wrongful intercourse is 
nr) proof of the existence of sexual jealousy — Term lending of wives restricted 
to private and voluntary lending by one man to another — Discussion of 
certain parts of Westermarck's criticism of the theory of promiscuity so far as 
concerns the tribes now dealt with — Customs at marriage and at certain 
other times afford evidence of the former existence of a time when there 
existed wider marital relations than now olitain. 

Whilst under ordinary circumstances in the Arunta and 
other tribes one man is only allowed to have marital relations 
with women of a particular c]ass, there are customs which 
allow, at certain times, of a man having such relations with 
women to whom at other times he would not on an\' account 
be allowed to have access. We find, indeed, that this holds 
true in the case of all the nine different tribes with the marriatje 
customs of which we are acquainted, and in which a woman 
becomes the private property of one man. 

The followincj is the custom amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra 
tribes. When a girl arrives at marriageable age, which is 
usually about fourteen or fifteen, the man to whom she has 
been allotted speaks to his Unknlla men, and they, together 
with men who are Unknlla and Unazva to the girl, but not 


including her future husband, take her out into the bush and 
there perform the operation called Atna-ariltha-kiivia {atiia, 
vulva ; ktima, cut).^ The operation is conducted with a stone 
knife and the operator who is, except in the southern Arunta, 
a man who is Ipnmnna to the girl, carries with him one of 
the small wooden Churinga called Xamatwhina with which 
before operating he touches the lips of the vulva, so as to 
prevent too great a loss of blood. When the operation 
has been performed, the Ipmit7ina, Unkulla and Unazi'u 
have access to her in the order named. This ceremony 
is often performed during the progress of an Altherta or 
ordinary corrobboree when, during the day time, the men 
habitually assemble at the corrobboree ground. \\'hen it is 
over the woman's head is decorated, by the Ipjuiiiina man 
who operated, with head bands and tufts oi Alpita^ the neck 
with necklaces, the arms with bands of fur string, and her body 
is painted all over with a mixture of fat and red ochre. Thus 
decorated, she is taken to the camp of her special Unaiva b\- the 
men who have taken part in the ceremony and who have mean- 
while painted themselves with charcoal.^ On the day following 
the husband will most likely — though there is no obligation for 
him to do so — send her to the same men, and after that she 
becomes his special wife, to whom no one else has right of access ; 
though at times a man will lend his wife to a stranger as an act 
of courtesy, always provided that he belongs to the right class^ 
that is, to the same as himself After wearing the decorations 
for a few days, the woman returns them to her Ipnuiuna man. 
By reference to the tables already given, it will be clearly 
seen that on this occasion men of forbidden groups have 
access to the woman. Suppose, for example, that she is a 
Purula. Her proper Unawa will be a Panunga man, and such 
an one is normally the only one with whom she ma}- have 

^ As this ceremony has important bearings upon the question now under dis- 
cussion, it is dealt with here ; but it must be remembered that it is, strictly speak- 
ing, an initiation ceremony, equivalent in the case of women to that of sub-incision 
ox pura-ariltha-ktima amongst the men. 

- Alpita is the name given to the tail tips of the rabbit-bandicoot {Peraga/e 
lagotis) : they are constantly used for personal decoration. 

3 It is worth noting that charcoal is specially used for decorative purposes, 
firstly in connection with magic, and secondly in connection with avenging parties. 


marital relations. The woman's IpDumna is an Ungalla man, 
that is, a man who belongs to her own moiety of the tribe ; her 
UnkuUa are Uknaria, that is, they belong to the half of her 
husband's class into which she may not marry. In addition 
to these forbidden men, there are the Uiiazua or men who 
are her lawful husbands, so far as their class is concerned, but 
whose general right of access to her is lost when she is allotted 
to some special individual amongst them. 

In the southern Arunta the operation is performed by a 
man who is Xiuinicra to the woman, that is, a man of the 
same class as the father of her future husband. For examjjle, 
if .she be again a Purula the man will be a Ikilthara. The 
ceremony is performed when a considerable number of men 
are together in camp, and the details vary somewhat from 
those in the northern part. A brother of the woman who has 
been told by the man that he, the latter, intends to claim his 
alloted Unawa takes the initiative and tells those who are not 
participating in the ceremony to remain in camp. Individuals 
who stand in the relationship to her of ]\Iia^ Oknia, Oki/ia, 
Ungaraitcha, Gammona, Ipviuniia and the particular Unawa to 
whom she is allotted, sit down in camp, the woman being 
amongst them. Then a who is Niinvicra to her comes up 
behind, and, touching the woman on the shoulder, tells her 
to follow him. He goes away accompanied by j^crhaps two 
other Nitiniicra, one or two who are Uiiknlla to her, and one 
or two who are Unawa, that is, are of the same class as her 
future husband. After the ceremonx- has been performed, she 
is decorated and brought back to the camp, and told to sit 
down immediately behind her special Unawa whom, after a 
short time, she accompanies to his camji. That night he 
lends her to one or two men who are Uuni^ui to her, and 
afterwards she belongs exclusively to him. 

Amongst the Kaitish tribe the operation is performed by an 
Arari or elder sister of the woman, and men of the following 
relationship have access in the order indicated. Atinini, the 
equivalents of the Ipniunna amongst the Arunta ; Atinkilia 
mothers' brothers' sons ; Alkiriia and Achirri, elder and 
younger brothers (but not in blood) ; Ganimona and Uinbirniia 
the equi\alent of the Unawa amongst the Arunta. It will be 


seen that in the Kaitish tribe, the usual restrictions are even 
more notabl\- broken than in the Arunta, for right of access 
is granted to men who are tribal brothers. 

Amongst the Warramunga tribe the operation is performed 
either by a man who is Turtundi^ the equivalent of Ipimmna 
in the Arunta, or, as amongst the Kaitish, by an elder sister. 
Men of the following relationship subsequently have access in 
the order named. Tiirtundi or Iptnunna ; Waiikili, father's 
sisters' sons ; Papirti and Kiikatcha, elder and }"ounger 
brothers (not in blood) ; Ktillakulla, the equivalents of the 
Unawa in the Arunta. 

Amongst the Iliaura tribe the operation is performed by an 
Ipnninna man and the following, using the equivalent terms 
of the Arunta, have access in the order named ; Ipmnnna, 
Unkulla, Okilia, Itia, and Unaiva. 

In the \\'aagai and Bingongina tribes the ceremony is the 
same as in the \A'arramunga. 

In the Walpari tribe the ceremony, as amongst the southern 
Arunta, is performed by a man vrho belongs to the same class 
as the woman's father-in-law, and is called Kulkiina ; and men 
of the following relationship have access in the order named. 
Kii/kuna ; Thathana, the equivalents of the Ipinnnua ; Wan- 
killina or mothers' brothers' sons ; Papcrtina and Kukcrnina, 
elder and }'ounger brothers ; and Kiil/akul/a, the equivalents 
of the Uuaz^'a of the Arunta. 

In the Luritcha tribe the operation is performed b}- a man 
who is Sthamu to the woman, that is, grandfather on the 
father's side ; and men of the following relationship have 
access in the order named — StJiamiL ; Watch ira, mothers' 
brothers' sons ; Ukari, sisters' sons ; Kuri, the equivalents of 
the Unaiva of the Arunta. 

It will be seen that in the nine tribes referred to there is 
a substantial agreement in the ceremonies concerned with 
marriage. It must of course be understood that they refer to 
the marriage of men and women who have been allotted to 
one another in one or other of the various ways which obtain 
amongst the tribes dealt with. In all these tribes we find 
that individual marriage exists, though in none of them is 
there a special term applied to the special wife, apart from the 


general one given in common to her and other women of 
her group whom it is lawful for a man to marr\' and outside 
of whom he may not marry. 

In each tribe, again, we find at this particular time when 
a woman is being, so to speak, handed over to one particular 
man, that special individuals representing groups with which 
at ordinary times she may have no intercourse, have the right 
of access to her. In the majority of tribes, even tribal brothers 
are included amongst them. The individuals who are thus 
privileged vary from tribe to tribe, but in all cases the striking 
feature is that, for the lime being, the existence of what can 
only be described as partial promiscuity can clearly be seen. 
By this we do not mean that marital rights are allowed to 
any man, but that for a time such rights are allowed to 
individuals to whom at other times the woman is ekirinja, or 
forbidden. The ceremonies in question are of the nature of 
those which Sir John Lubbock has described as indicative of 
" expiation for marriage," and it is at least very probable that 
the customs are to be regarded as pointing back to the 
former existence of an exercise of wider marital rights than 
those which now obtain in the various tribes. They may in 
fact be best described as rudimentary customs in just the 
same way in which we speak of rudimentary structures 
amongst animals and plants. Just also as the latter are 
regarded as representative of parts which were once functional 
in ancestral forms, so also may we regard these rudimentary 
customs as lingering relics of a former stage passed through 
in the develoj^ment of the present social organisation of the 
various tribes in which they are found. 

In addition to the ceremonies which are concerned with 
marriage, there is another custom of somewhat the same 
nature, to which reference may be made here. In the eastern 
and north-eastern parts of the Arunta, and in the Kaitish 
Iliaura, and Warramunga tribes, considerable license is 
allowed on certain occasions, when a large number of men 
and women are gathered together to jjerform certain corrob- 
borees. When an important one of these is held, it occupies 
])erhaps ten days or a fortnight ; and during that time the 
men, and especially the elder ones, but by no means ex- 


clusively these, spend the day in camp preparing decorations 
to be used during the evening. Every day two or three 
women are told off to attend at the corrobboree ground, and, 
with the exception of men who stand in the relation to them 
of actual father, brother, or sons, they are, for the time being, 
common property to all the men present on the corrobboree 
ground. In the Arunta tribe the following is exactly what 
takes place : a man goes to another who is actually or tribally 
his son-in-law, that is, one who stands to him in the relation- 
ship of GaJinnoiia, and says to the latter : " You will take my 
Unazva into the bush ^ and bring in with }-ou some undattJia 
altherta" (down used for decorating during ordinary cor- 
robborees). The Ganimona then goes awa}', followed by the 
woman who has been previously told what to do by her 
husband. This woman is actually J\Iiira to the Ganiniona, 
that is, one to whom under ordinary circumstances he may 
not even speak or go near, much less have anything like 
marital relations with. After the two have been out in the 
bush the}- return to the camp, the man carrying iindattlia 
and the woman following with green twigs, which the men 
will wear during the evening dance, tied round their arms and 
ankles. There will be perhaps two or three of these women 
present on each da\', and to them an}- man present on the 
ground, except those alread}' mentioned, ma}- have access. 
During the day the}- sit near to the men watching but taking 
no part in the preparation of decorations. The natives say 
that their presence during the preparations and the sexual 
indulgence, which was a practice of the Alcheringa, prevents 
anything from going wrong with the performance ; it makes 
it impossible for the head decorations, for example, to become 
loose and disordered during the performance. At evening 
the women are painted with red ochre by the men, and then 
they return to the main camp to summon the women and 
children to the corrobboree. 

In connection with this subject, a curious custom concerned 
with messengers may be noticed here. In the case of the 
Urabunna tribe it is usual to send as messengers, when 

1 The bush is a term used in Australia to denote country more or less covered 
with a growth of natural trees and shrubs. 



summoning distant groups, a man and a woman, or sometimes 
two pairs, who are Pirauugaru to each other. The men carry 
as evidence of their mission bunches of cockatoo feathers 
and nose bones. After the men have delivered their message 
and talked matters over with the strangers, they take the 
women out a short distance from the camp, where they leave 
them. If the members of the group which the)' are visiting 
decide to comply with their request, all men irrespective of 
class have access to the women ; but, if it be decided not to 
comply with the request, then the latter are not visited. In 
much the same way, when a party of men intent on vengeance 
comes near to the strange camp of which they intend to kill 
some member, the use of women ma\' be offered to them. If 
they be accepted, then the quarrel is at an end, as the 
acceptance of this favour is a sign of friendship. To accept 
the favour and then not to comply with the desire of the 
people offering it, would be a gross breach of tribal custom. 

So far, then, as the marital relations of the tribes are con- 
cerned, we find that whilst there is individual marriage, there 
are, in actual practice, occasions on which the relations are of 
a much wider nature. We have, indeed, in this respect three 
very distinct series of relationships. The first is the normal 
one, when the woman is the private property of one man, and 
no one without his consent can have access to her, though he 
may lend her privately to certain individuals who stand in 
one given relationship to her. The second is the wider re- 
lation in regard to particular men at the time of marriage. 
The third is the still wider relation which obtains on certain 
occasions, such as the holding of important corrobborees. 

The first of these is purely a private matter, and it is only 
to this that the term lending ofwi\es can be proper!)- applied, 
and to it we restrict the term in the following pages. The 
second and third are what we ma)' call matters of public 
nature, by which we mean that the individuals concerned 
have no choice in the matter, and the women cannot be with- 
held by the men whose individual wi\es they either are to be, 
or already are. 

In the case of the women who attend the corrobboree, it is 
supposed to be the duty of ever\' man at different times 


to send his wife to the ground, and the most striking feature 
in regard to it is that the first man who has access to her 
is the very one to whom, under normal conditions, she is 
most strictly tabu, that is, her Mura. This definite wa\' of 
breaking through the rules of tabu appears to show that the 
custom has some very definite significance more than can be 
explained by merely referring it to a feeling of hospitality, 
and the fact that every man in turn is obliged by public 
custom to thus relinquish, for the time being, his possession 
of the woman who has been allotted to him, strengthens the 
idea. At the same time, as young and old men alike have to 
do so at some time or other, it is impossible to regard it as 
a right which is forcibly taken by strong men from weaker 
ones. It is a custom of ancient date which is sanctioned by 
public opinion, and to the performance of which neither men 
nor women concerned ofter any opposition. 

In connection with this, it may be worth while noting that 
amongst the Australian natives with whom we have come in 
contact, the feeling of sexual jealous\' is not developed to 
anything like the extent to which it would appear to be in 
many other savage tribes. For a man to have unlawful 
intercourse with any woman arouses a feeling which is due 
not so much to jealousy as to the fact that the delinquent has 
infringed a tribal custom. If the intercourse has been with a 
woman who belongs to the class from which his wife comes, 
then he is called at7ia nylkna (which, literalh' translated, is 
vulva-thief) ; if with one with whom it is unlawful for him 
to have intercourse, then he is called itiirka, the most op- 
probrious term in the Arunta tongue. In the one case he 
has merely stolen propert}-, in the other he has offended 
against tribal law. 

Now and again sexual jealousy as between a man and 
woman will come into play, but as a general rule this is a feel- 
ing which is undoubtedly subservient to that of the influence 
of tribal custom, so far as the latter renders it obligatory for 
a man to allow other men, at certain times, to have free access 
to his wife, or so far as it directs him to lend his wife to 
some other individual as a mark of personal favour to the 

H 2 


Whilst jealous}' is not unknown amongst these tribes, the 
point of importance in respect to the matter under discussion 
is that it is not strongly enough developed to prevent the 
occurrence of general intercourse on certain occasions, or the 
lending of wives at other times ; it is, indeed, a factor which 
need not be taken into serious account in regard to the 
question of sexual relations amongst the Central Australian 
tribes. A man in these tribes ma)' be put to death for wrong- 
ful intercourse, but at the same time this is no proof of the 
fact that sexual jealous)- exists ; it is a serious offence against 
tribal laws, and its punishment has no relation to the feelings 
of the indixidual. 

We ma)' now pass on to discuss briefl)' the customs relating 
to marriage which have alread)' been enumerated, and in so 
doing, as we ha\-e often to refer to the lending of wi\-es, it 
must be remembered that we use this term onl)' as ai)[)l)'ing 
to the private lending of a woman to some other individual 
by the man to whom she has been allotted, and do not refer 
to the custom at corrobborees which has just been dealt with, 
and which, as it is in realit)^ obligator)' and not optional, 
cannot be regarded as a lending in the same sense in which 
the term is used in connection with the former custom. 

In his well-known work dealing with human marriage, 
Westermarck ^ has brought together, from various sources, 
facts relating to similar customs, and, while discussing the 
hypothesis of promiscuit)' from an adverse point of view, has 
endeavoured to explain them as due to various causes. These 
we may conveniently discuss, examining each briefly in the 
endeavour to ascertain whether it will or will not serve to 
explain the marriage customs as we find them in Australian 
tribes, of which those quoted above ma)'^ be taken as typical 
examples. It must be understood that we are here simply 
dealing with this question so far as the evidence derived from 
these Australian tribes is concerned. 

The first explanation offered is that in certain instances the 
practice is evidently associated with phallic worship, as, for 
example, when in the valley of the Ganges, the virgins had to 
offer themselves up in the temples of Juggernaut. This 

' T/ic History of Hnntaii Marriage, pp. 5 1- 1 33. 


implies a state of social development very different from, and 
much more advanced than, 'anything met with amongst the 
Australian natives, and the two customs are evidently quite 
distinct from one another. It is doubtful how far phallic 
w^orship can be said to exist amongst the Australian natives. 

In other cases where the bride is for a night considered the 
common property of the guests at a wedding feast, Wester- 
marck suggests that "It may have been a part of the nuptial 
entertainment — a horrible kind of hospitality no doubt, but 
quite in accordance with savage ideas, and analogous to another 
custom which occurs much more frequently — I mean the 
practice of lending wives." This presupposes, and in fact is 
co-existent with, what does not take place in Australian 
tribes, and that is a more or less regular marriage ceremony 
at which guests assemble, and such an organised proceeding 
cannot be said to exist amongst the tribes with which we are 
dealing ; moreover, apart from this, which is not perhaps a 
very serious objection, though it seems to imply a state of 
development considerably in advance of that of the Australian 
natives, there still remains what appears to us to be the in- 
superable difficulty of accounting, on this hypothesis, for the 
fact that this " hospitality " amongst Australian tribes is only 
allowed to a limited number of individuals, all of whom must 
stand in some particular relationship to the woman. 

Westermarck further suggests that it is analogous to the 
custom of lending wives. Now, amongst the Australian 
natives wives are certainly lent, but onty under strict Qiles ; 
in the Arunta tribe for example no man will lend his wife to 
any one who does not belong to the particular group with 
which it is lawful for her to have marital relations — she is 
in fact, only lent to a man whom she calls Unawa, just as 
she calls her own husband, and though this may undoubtedly 
be spoken of as an act of hospitality, it may with equal justice 
be regarded as evidence of the very clear recognition of group 
relationship, and as evidence also in favour of the former 
existence of group marriage. 

It is quite true, on the other hand, that a native will some- 
times offer his wife, as an act of hospitalit}-, to a white man ; 
but this has nothing to do with the lending of wives which 


has just been dealt with, and the difference between the two 
acts is of a radical nature. The white man stands outside the 
laws which govern the nati\"e tribe, and therefore to lend him 
a wife of an\' designation does not imply the infringement of 
an\- custom. This is purely and simpl}-, as W'estermarck 
points out, an act of hospitality, but the ver\' fact that he will 
only lend his wife, if he does so at all, to another native of a 
particular designation, seems to at once imply that we are 
dealing with a custom at the root of which lies something 
much more than merel\' an idea of hospitalit)-. The lending 
of women to men outside the tribe who are not amenable to 
its laws and customs is one thing, to lend them to men who 
are members of the tribe is quite another thing, and the 
respective origins of the customs in these two radically 
different cases are probabh' totall}- distinct — one is no doubt 
to be explained on the h\-pothesis of hospitalit}-, the other is 
not. The h\'pothesis of hospitality does not, in short, appear 
to us to be capable of explaining the fact that both at mar- 
riage and at certain other times, it is onl\' particular men who 
are allowed access to particular women. ^ 

A third h}-pothesis suggested to account for certain customs 
such as the "jus primae noctis," accorded to chiefs and par- 
ticular individuals, is that " it may be a right taken forcibh' b\- 
the stronger, or it ma\' be a privilege voluntarily given 
to the chief man as a mark of esteem ; in either case it 
depends upon his authorit}-." - It will be generally admitted 
that here again no such explanation will account for the 
customs as met with amongst Australian tribes. In the first 
place, while the elder men are undoubtedly accorded certain 
privileges, there is not in any Australian tribe any one in- 

* It may i)erhaps be advisable to point out that in many cases in which appar- 
ently women are lent (in the sense in which we vise the word, which is the sense 
in which it is generally used in this connection) indiscriminately, a knowledge of 
details would show that this was not so. In regard to Australian tribes it is very 
difticult, in most cases, to find out anything like exact details from accounts 
already published, and general statements such as that a party of men have the 
privilege of access to a woman are unless we know the exact conditions 
or relative status of the individual men and the woman. In the nine tribes ex- 
amined by us we have found that intercourse of this nature is strictly regulated by 

* Westermarck, op. iit., p. 78. 


dividual to whom the term chief can, with strict propriety, be 
appHed, and in the second place the privilege with which we 
are dealing is b}- no means enjoyed wholl}' by the elder men.^ 
Unless the leading man in any group stands in a particular 
relationship to the woman, he has no more right of access to 
her than the most insignificant man in the group. 

A fourth h}-pothesis is suggested in connection with the 
right of access granted to men who have assisted the bride- 
groom in the capture of the woman. " In such cases the ' jus 
primae noctis ' is a reward for a good turn done, or perhaps, 
as Mr. McLennan suggests, a common war right, exercised 
by the captors of the woman." - There is undoubted!}' much 
to be said in favour of this, but there are objections applying 
to it as to the second h}-pothesis dealt with. In the first place, 
so far as Australia is concerned, it is founded upon such vague 
statements as that quoted by Brough Smyth upon the autho- 
rity of Mr. J. M. Davis."^ Mr. Davis says, " when a }-otmg 
man is entitled to have a lubra, he organises a party of his 
friends, and the}' make a journe}' into the territories of some 
other tribe, and there lie in wait, generalh- in the evening, by 
a waterhole, where the lubras come for water. Such of the 
lubras as ma}- be required are then pounced upon, and, if 
they attempt to make an}' resistance, are struck down insen- 
sible and dragged off There is also this peculiarit}', that in 
any instance where the abduction has taken place for the 
benefit of some one individual, each of the members of the 
party claims, as a right, a privilege which the intended hus- 
band has no power to refuse." 

Before it is safe, or indeed possible, to draw an}' conclu- 
sion from this, we require to know exacth' who the men were, 
that is in what relationship the}^ stood to the man whom 

^ The term chief or even king of a tribe is not seldom used in writings of a 
somewhat popular nature, which deal with AustraUa. Travellers will often find 
in up-country parts a native of appropriate age decorated with a brass plate 
whereon is inscribed some such legend as "King Billy, chief of the Gurraburra 
tribe." The individual in question may possibly have been, though it is just as 
likely that he was not, the head of a local group or even tribe, but the natives 
have no term which can be correctly rendered by the word " chief." 

^ Westermarck, op. cit., p. 76. 

^ Aborigines of Victoria, vol. ii., p. 316. 


they were assisting. The more detailed is the information 
acquired in respect to the Australian tribes, the more clearh- 
is it made apparent that on expeditions such as this, when 
the object in view is the obtaining of a wife, the man onl)- 
asks the assistance of men who stand in certain definite re- 
lationships to himself It does not at all follow, that, be- 
cause a man forms a member of a party which captures a 
woman, he is therefore allowed to have access to her. In the 
tribes which we have investigated, marriage customs regulate 
the whole proceedings ; the equivalent classes in the tribes 
are well known and, supposing for example, a party consists 
of men belonging to two classes, which we will call A and B, 
and a woman is captured belonging, say, to a third class C, 
which intermarries with Class A, but not with Class B, then 
no man in the party, if there be any such present, who belongs 
to Class B will be allowed, or will attempt, to have access to 
her. When we have merely such general statements as that 
quoted above from the report of 'Sir. Davis, it may look \er}' 
much as if there did exist such a thing as " a common war- 
right, exercised by the captors of a woman," but the more 
detailed our information becomes, the less evidence of any 
such " common war-right " do we find, and in the Australian 
tribes generally it may be regarded as very doubtful if any 
such right really exists. Amongst the tribes with which we 
are acquainted it certainly does not. 

Marriage b)' capture is again, at the present da\', whatexer 
it may have been in the past, by no means the rule in 
Australian tribes, and too much stress has been laid upon 
this method. It is only comparatively rarel\' that a native 
goes and seizes upon some lubra in a neighbouring tribe ; 
by far the most common method of getting a wife is by 
means of an arrangement made between brothers or fathers 
of the respective men and women, whereby a particular 
woman is assigned to a particular man. Marriage by capture 
may indeed be regarded as one of the most exceptional 
methods of obtaining a wife amongst the natives at the 
]:)resent day. We are not of course referring here to customs 
which may, in many tribes, be explained as indicative of a 
former existence of the practice ; whether, in the remote past, 


capture was the prevailing method can only be a matter of 
conjecture, but the customs at marriage in the tribes here 
dealt with — and it may be pointed out that these occupy a 
very large area in the centre of the continent, so that we are 
by no means dealing with an isolated example — do not seem 
to indicate that they owe their origin to anything like the 
recognition of the right of captor, as captor. 

The fifth hypothesis is that of promiscuity. Certainly at 
the present day, so far as we can tell, there is some definite 
system of marriage in all Australian tribes and promiscuity, 
as a normal feature, does not exist. At the same time none 
of the hypotheses put forward by Westermarck will serve to 
explain the curious and very strongly marked features of the 
marriage customs, the essential points in which are, (i) that 
men have access to women who are strictly forbidden to 
them at ordinary times, and (2) that it is only certain definite 
men standing in certain particular relationships to the woman 
who thus have access. 

To make use of the same analogy again, it seems that in 
the evolution of the social organisation and customs of a savage 
tribe, such features as those which we are now discussing are 
clearly comparable to the well known rudimentary organs, 
which are often of great importance in understanding the 
phylogeny of the animal in which at some time of its develop- 
ment they are present. Such rudimentary structures are 
emblematic of parts which are perhaps only transient or, at 
most, imperfectly developed in the animal, but their presence 
shows that they were, at some past time, more highly 
developed and functional in ancestral stages. 

It is thus perhaps permissible to speak of " rudimentar}- 
customs," in just the same way, and with just the same 
significance attached to them, in which we speak of " rudi- 
mentary organs" and we may recognise in them an abbreviated 
record of a stage passed through in the development of the 
customs of the tribe amongst which they are found.^ Such 

^ Since the above was written we have seen the essays by Professor Karl 
Pearson dealing with the same subject, in his work The Chances of Death. In 
these Mr. Pearson has used the term "fossil," but though the term "rudimentar}' 
custom " has the disadvantage of length, we prefer to retain it as it appears to us 
to draw attention to a striking analogy. 


rudimentary customs, like those which are associated with the 
Maypole for example, point back to a time when they were 
more highl}- developed than they are at present, and when the 
customs were more or less widely different from those now- 

The origin of the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt 
with cannot possibl}*, so it seems to us, be explained as due 
cither to a feeling of hospitality, or to the right of captors ; 
nor can they be explained, as in certain cases the "jus primae 
noctis" can, as a right forcibl)- taken by the stronger from the 
weaker. There can be no reasonable doubt but that at one time 
the marriage arrangements of the Australian tribes were in a 
more primitive state than they are at the present da\', and 
the customs with which we are dealing can be most simply 
explained as rudimentary ones serving, possibl}- in a ver>- 
abbreviated wa\', to show the former existence of conditions 
which are no longer prevalent. 

In regard to the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt 
with, we have the following facts. In the first place we have 
a group of women who are, what is called Unazva, to a group 
of men and vice versa, 'C^z.V is, all of these men and women 
are reciprocalh' marriageable. This, it may be observed, is 
not a matter of assumption but of actual fact. In the Arunta 
tribe for example a Panunga man will call the Purula whom 
he actually marries Unaiva, but he has no name to distinguish 
her from all the other Purula women whom he does not 
actuall\- marr\', but any one of whom he might lawfull)- 
marry.^ Further than this, while he has no actual right of 
access to an}' woman, except his own special Uiiaiva woman 
or women, there are times, as, for example, during special 
ceremonies, or when he is visiting a distant group, when a 
woman is lent to him, but that woman must be one who is 

^ By lawfully marry we mean that though the woman may he betrothed to 
another man, he woukl not break any tribal law by marrying her. If the woman 
belonged to a different local grou]> from his own, and he obtained her l)y one of 
the recognised methods of charming, then the members of his own group would 
assist him in retaining her, whereas if he obtained by charming any woman of a 
forbidden class, then, not only would he receive no help from his own group, but 
they would either jiut him to death themselves, or else they would request some 
neighbouring group to do so. 


Unazva to him. In other words, we have individual marriage 
in which a man is limited in his choice to women of a 
particular group, each one of whom stands to him in the 
relationship of a possible wife, and with whom it is lawful for 
him, with the consent of her special Unazva man, to have 
marital relations. However hospitably inclined a man may 
feel, he will never lend his wife to a man who does not belong 
to a group of men to each of whom she stands in the relation- 
ship of Unazva or possible wife. A Panunga man ma\- lend 
his wife to another Panunga, but for a man of an}' other class 
to have marital relations with her would be a gross offence. 

In the second place, we have certain customs concerned 
with marriage which are of what we may call a transient 
nature. Taking the Kaitish tribe as an example, we find 
that, when marriage actualh* takes place, the operation of 
Atna-ariltJia-kiivia is performed b}' the elder sister of the 
woman, and that men of the following relationship have 
access to her in the order named : Ipviunna, that is individuals 
of the same moiet}- of the tribe as her own ; mothers' 
brothers' sons ; tribal elder and younger brothers ; and 
lastly, men whom she might lawfully marry, but who have no 
right to her when once she becomes the propert}' of a member 
of the group to which they belong. By referring to the tables 
alread}' given, it will be seen that these men, if we take a 
particular example, sa}* a Panunga woman, are Ungalla. 
Uknaria, Purula and Panunga. In other words, both men of 
her own, and of the moiet}- of the tribe to which she does not 
belong, have access to her, but onl}' for a verv limited time, 
and the same holds true in the case of all the tribes 

It will therefore be seen that (i) for a given time a woman 
has marital relations with men of both moieties of the tribe, 
and (2) that she may during her life, when once she has 
become the special wife of some individual man, have law- 
fully, but dependent always upon the consent of the latter, 
marital relations with any of the group of men to each and all 
of whom she stands in the relationship of Uiiazva. 

These are the actual facts with which we have to deal, and 
the only possible explanation of them appears to us to lie 


along the followinfr lines. We are here of course only dealing 
with those tribes in which descent is counted in the male 
line, the remaining tribe — the Urabunna — in which descent is 
counted in the female line, will be referred to subsequently. 
It appears to us that, in the present customs relating to 
marriage amongst this section of the Australian natives, we 
have clear evidence of three grades of development. We 
have (i) the present normal condition of individual marriage 
with the occasional existence of marital relations between the 
individual wife and other men of the same group as that to 
which her husband belongs, and the occasional existence also 
of still wider marital relations ; (2) we have evidence of the 
existence at a prior time of actual group marriage ; and (3) 
we have evidence of the existence at a still earlier time of 
still wider marital relations. 

The evidence in favour of the h}-pothesis, that the present 
marriage system of such a tribe as the Arunta is based upon 
the former actual existence of group marriage, seems to us to 
be incontestable. The one most striking point in regard to 
marriage at the present day is that a man of one group is 
absolutely confined in his choice of a wife to women of a 
]jarticular group, and that it is lawful for him to marry any 
woman of that group. When once he has secured a woman 
she is his private property, but he may, and often docs, 
lend her to other men, but onl)' if they belong to his own 
group. Further still, the natives have two distinct words 
to denote on the one hand surreptitious connection between 
a man and a woman who is not his own wife, but belongs 
to the proper group from which his wife comes, and, on the 
other hand, connection between a man and a woman belong- 
ing to forbidden groups. The first is called At)ia-uylkna, the 
second is Itnrka. In the face of the facts which have been 
brought forward, we see no possible explanation other than 
that the present system is derived from an earlier one in 
which the essential feature was actual group marriage. 

When we turn to the Urabunna tribe we find the evidence 
still clearer. Here we have onl)- two classes, viz., Matt- 
hurie and Kirarawa. .A Matthurie man marries a Kirarawa 
woman, and vice versa. There is no such thinir as an 


individual wife. Every Matthurie man stands in the relation- 
ship of Niipa to a group of Kirarawa women, and they are, 
in the same way, Niipa to him. Every man has, or at least 
may have, one or more of these Niipa women allotted to 
him as wives, and to whom he has the first but not the 
exclusive right of access. To certain Niipa women other 
than his own wives he stands in the relationship o{ Piraiuigani, 
and they to him. These Piraungarii are the wives of other 
men of his own group, just as his own wives are Pirmingarii 
to some of the latter men, and we thus find in the Urabunna 
tribe that a group of women actually have marital relations 
with a group of men. Westermarck^ has referred in his work 
to what he calls " the pretended group-marriages " of the 
Australians. In the case of the Urabunna there is no pre- 
tence of any kind, and exactly the same remark holds true 
of the neighbouring Dieri tribe. 

The matter can be expressed clearly in the form of a 
diagram used by Mr. Fison in explaining the marriage S}'stem 
of the Dieri tribe :" 

M3 F, 


■^ M, 

FIG. 19. 

Fi is the allotted Nupa of Mi, her Piraungaru are Ma and M3. 
F2 ,, ,, M2, ,, ,, Mi and M3. 

F3 ,, ,, M3, ,, ,, Ml and M2. 

It must be remembered, of course, that any one woman 
may be Piraungaru to a larger number of men than the two 
who are represented in the diagram. The relation oi Piraiiii- 
garu is established between any woman and men to whom 
she is Nupa — that is, to whom she ma}- be lawfully married 

^ Op. cit., p. 95, footnote. 

^ Classificatory System of Relationship, Brit. Ass. Adv. Sci., O.xford, 1S94, 
p. 360. 


by her XutJiic or elder brothers. If a group be camped 
together, and, as a matter of fact groups of individuals who 
are Piranngaru to one another do usuall}- camp together, then 
in the case of Fi. her special Niipa man ]\Ii has the first 
right to her, but if he be absent then M2 and M3 have the 
right to her ; or, if ]\Ii be present, the two have the right to 
her subject to his consent, which is practically never withheld. 

It is difficult to see how this system can be regarded other- 
wise than as an interesting stage in the transition from group 
to individual marriage. Each woman has one special 
individual who has the first right of access to her, but she 
has also a number of individuals of the same group who have 
a right to her either, if the first man be present, with his 
consent or, in his absence, without an)' restriction whatever. 

In this tribe, just as in all the others, connection with 
women of the wrong group is a most serious offence, punish- 
able by death or very severe treatment. 

The evidence in favour of the third grade, that is the 
existence of wider marital relations than those indicated by 
the form of group marriage which has just been discussed, is 
naturally more indefinite and difficult to deal with. Wester- 
marck, after having discussed at length the hypothesis of 
promiscuity, says : ^ " Having now examined all the groups 
of social phenomena adduced as evidence for the hypothesis 
of promiscuit}', we have found that, in point of fact, they are 
no evidence. Not one of the customs alleged as relics of an 
ancient state of indiscriminate cohabitation of the sexes or 
'communal marriage' presupposes the former existence of 
that state," and further on he says:'- "It is not, of course, 
impossible that, among some peoj^le, intercourse between the 
sexes may have been almost promiscuous. But there is not 
a shred of genuine evidence for the notion that promiscuity 
ever formed a general stage in the social histor\- of mankind." 

It need scarcely be pointed out how totally opposed this 
conclusion of ]\Ir. Westermarck's is to that arrived at by other 
workers, and we think there can be little doubt but that 
Mr. W'estermarck is in error with regard to the question 
of group marriage amongst the Australian natives. 

1 op. cit.. p. 113 •-■ Op. (it., p. 133. 


We are here simply concerned with the question as to 
whether there is an}- evidence in favour of the supposition that 
in former times there existed wider marital relations amongst 
the Australian natives than is indicated in the system of 
group marriage, the evidence in favour of which has been 
dealt with. If any were forthcoming, there can be little 
doubt but that, a priori, we should expect to find it in the 
nature of what we have called a rudimentary custom, such 
as might be met with at the actual time of marriage, that is, 
when a woman is handed over to become the possession of 
one man. Xone of the h\-potheses brought forward by 
Westermarck to explain the customs on this occasion can, we 
think, be considered as at all satisfactory in regard to those of 
the tribes with which we are dealing. The one striking feature 
of the marriage customs is that particular men representative 
of the woman's own moiety, and of the half of the tribe 
to which she does not belong, have access to her, and alwa}-s 
in a particular order, according to which those who, in the 
present state of the tribe, have lawfully the right to her come 

These customs, together with the one alread}' dealt with, 
referring to a general intercourse during the performance of 
certain corrobborees are, it appears to us, only capable of 
any satisfactory explanation on the hypothesis that they 
indicate the temporary recognition of certain general rights 
which existed in the time prior to that of the form of 
group marriage of which we have such clear traces yet 
lingering amongst the tribes. We do not mean that 
they afford direct evidence of the former existence of actual 
promiscuity, but the\' do afford evidence leading in that 
direction, and they certainly point back to a time when 
there existed wider marital relations than obtain at the 
present day — wider, in fact, than those which are shown in the 
form of group marriage from which the present system 
is derived. On no other hypothesis }-et advanced do the 
customs connected with marriage, which are so consistent 
in their general nature and leading features from tribe to 
tribe, appear to us to be capable of satisfactory explanation. 



Everj" indiviflual is born into some totem — \'ariation.s in the significance of the 
totems in difterent parts of Australia — Totems of the Uraljunna trilje — The 
child takes the mother's totem — Totems of the Arunta tribe — No relationship 
of necessity between the totem name of the child and that of the father and 
mother — Marriage not regulated by totem — Exami)les of totem names as 
they exist in ])articular families — Though diflering much from one another in 
many points, there is a fundamental unity in customs, sufficient to indicate 
the origin of all Australian tribes from ancestors who practised certain customs 
which have been develoj^ed along different lines in different localities — Cere- 
monies of the Engwura serving to show the way in wliich each individual 
acquires his or her toteniic name — The Alchcringa times — The ancestral 
members of certain totemic grou]5s restricted wholly, or almost so, to mem- 
bers of one moiety of the tribe — The wanderings of certain gn >ups of Alcheringa 
ancestors, each of whom carried one or more sacred Churinga, with each of 
which is associated the spirit part of an individual — Where the Churinga are 
deposited there local totem centres are formed, the native name of which is 
Oktiauikilla — Each Ohianikilla is " associated with one totem, and when a 
child is born it is one of the spirit individuals resident at a particular spot 
which goes inside a woman, and therefore its totem is the totem of the spirits 
associated with that spot — Examples of how a child gets its totemic name — 
Totem never changes, but the class may- — The tnicnis are local in their 

Every individual of the tribes with which we are deaHng is 
born into some totem — that is, he or she belongs to a group of 
persons each one of whom bears the name of, and is especiall\' 
associated with, some natural object. The latter is usually an 
animal or plant ; but in addition to those of living things, 
there are also such totem names as wind, sun, water, or cloud — 
in fact there is scarcel)' an object, animate or inanimate, to be 
found in the country occupied by the natives which does not 
gives its name to some totemic group of individuals. 

Much has been written with regard to the totems of the 
Australian natives since the time when Grey first described 
them under the name of Kobong, which, it must be remarked, 
is only of local application in certain parts of the west, the 


word being" entire!}- unknown over the greater part of the 
continent. As might have been expected, when we take into 
account the vast area of land over which the AustraHan tribes 
are spread, and the isolation b}- physical barriers of those 
occupying the Central area from the tribes living on the east 
and west, there have arisen, in respect to the totemic s}-stem, 
variations of so important a character that it is b}- no means 
possible to describe that which is found in any one tribe or 
group of tribes and regard it as typical of Australian natives 
generall}'. The Arunta, Ilpirra and Luritcha tribes, and 
there is little doubt but that the same holds true of other 
tribes to the north, such as the Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina, 
Walpari, and Warramunga, differ in important respects from 
the tribes which either now do, or formerly did, inhabit the 
east and south-eastern parts of the continent, and to whom 
nearly all our knowledge of totems in Australia has been 
confined. Between these central and the southern and south- 
eastern tribes a sharp line can be drawn, so far as their 
totemic systems are concerned ; indeed it looks ver\' much 
as if somewhere a little to the north-west of Lake Eyre we 
had a meeting-place of two sets of tribes, which migrated 
southwards, following roughly parallel courses, one across the 
centre of the continent, while the other followed down the 
course of the main streams on the east, and then turned 
slightly northward on the west side of Lake Eyre ; or, 
possibly, in their southern wanderings, part of this eastern 
group spread round the north, and part round the south end 
of the lake (Fig. i). 

We find, so far as their organisation is concerned, a sharph- 
marked line of difference between the L'rabunna tribe, the 
members of which are spread over the country which lies to 
the west and north-west of Lake Eyre, and the Arunta tribe, 
which adjoins their northern boundar\'. The Lrabunna 
tribe is associated with the migration along the eastern side, 
while the Arunta is the most southern of the Central tribes. 

In the Urabunna and the adjoining Dieri tribe, as well as 
in those which spread northwards on the east side of Lake 
Eyre towards the borders of Queensland, and in others who 
lived along the shores of Spencer Gulf and along the southern 



coast, we find that descent is counted in the female Hne. In 
the Urabunna, for example, we find that all the members of 
the tribe are divided into two classes, which are called 
respectivel}' Matthurie and Kirarawa, and each of these 
again contains a certain number of totems, or, as the natives 
call them, T/iu)it/iunie. The same totem name is only to 
be found in one or other of the two classes, but not in both. 
Thus, for example, among the Matthurie wc find the follow- 
ing totems — Inyarrie(wild duck), Wutnimmera (green cicada), 
Matla (dingo), Waragutie (emu), Kalathura (wild turkey), 
Guti (black swan) ; whilst amongst the Kirarawa are such 
totems as Kurara (cloud), Wabma (carpet snake), Kapirie 
''lace lizard), Urantha (pelican), Kutnichilie (water-hen), 
Wakala (crow).^ 

Now not only must a Matthurie man take as wife a 
Kirarawa woman, but he must onl\- take one of some 
particular totem.'- Thus a wild duck Matthurie man marries 
a snake Kirarawa woman, a cicada marries a crow, a dingo a 
water-hen, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, and a swan a 
pelican. Every child, male or female, of a wild duck 
Matthurie man belongs to the class Kirarawa, and to the 
totem snake to which his mother belonged. Thus in every 
family the father belongs to one class and totem, while the 
mother and all the children belong to another. We have 
already dealt at length with certain asj^ects of the social 
organisation of the Urabunna tribe, and enough has now been 
said to show that it is a typical example of one of the many 
Australian tribes in which the totem of the child is simply 
determined by that of the mother. 

Passing northwards from the Urabunna into the Arunta 
tribe, we are brought into contact with a very different 
organisation, but with one which, in regard to the class names, 
is typical of tribes which occupy an area extending north and 
.south for some 800 miles, and east and west for perhaps 

' The organisation of the Dieri tribe, as well as its marriage customs, have been 
(lescribe<l by Mr. Hewitt in his monograph "On the Organisation of Australian 
Tribes," Trans. J\. S. Vict., vol. i., pt. 2, 1889., p. 124, which may be regarded 
as embodying generally our knowledge of the organisation of Australian tribes up 
to the present day. 

"^ See in connection with this the footnote on p. 60. 


between 200 and 300. We find also essentially the same 
system in tribes inhabiting other parts of Australia, such as 
the Turribul, living on the Maryborough river in Queensland.^ 
Without entering here into details, which will be fully 
explained subsequently, we may say that, so far as the class 
is concerned, descent is counted in the male line. The totem 
names are, however, at first sight decidedly perplexing. Just 
as in the Urabunna tribe, every individual has his or her 
totem name. In the first place, however, no one totem is 
confined to the members of a particular class or sub- 
class ; in the second place the child's totem will some- 
times be found to be the same as that of the father, 
sometimes the same as that of the mother, and not infre- 
quently it will be different from that of either parent ; and 
in the third place there is no definite relationship between 
the totem of the father and mother, such as exists in the 
Urabunna and many other Australian tribes — in fact perhaps 
in the majority of the latter. You may, for example, examine 
at first a family in which the father is a witchetty grub 
and the mother a wild cat, and \'ou ma}' find, supposing there 
be two children, that they are both witchetty grubs. In the 
next family examined perhaps both parents will be witchetty 
grubs, and of two children one may belong to the same totem, 
and the other may be an emu ; another family will show the 
father to be, say, an emu , the mother a plum-tree, and of their 
children one may be a witchetty grub, another a lizard, and so 
on, the totem names being apparently mixed up in the 
greatest confusion possible. 

We give below the actual totem names of five families, 
selected at random, who are now living in the northern 
section of the Arunta tribe, and these may be taken as ac- 
curately representative of the totem names found in various 
families throughout the tribe. After making very numerous 
and as careful inquiries as possible, always directly from the 
natives concerned, we can say that every family shows the 
same features as these particular examples do with regard to 
the totems, the names of the latter varying, of course, from 
family to family and in different parts of the countr^^, certain 

■• Howitt. op. dt. ]•). 102. 

I 2 


totems predominating in some, and others in other parts. 
You ma)-, for example, find yourself in one district of more 
or less limited area and find one totem largel}' represented ; 
travelling out of that district, \-ou ma\- meet but rarel}' with 
that particular totem until }'ou come into another and per- 
haps distant part, where — it max- be 40 or 50 miles away — 
it again becomes the principal one. The reason for, or rather 
the explanation of, this curious local distribution of totem 
names, as given by the natives, will be seen presently. 

Famil\- i. Father, little hawk. Wife \o. i, rat ; daughter, 
witchett)- grub. Wife Xo. 2, kangaroo ; no children. Wife No. 
3, lizard ; two daughters, one emu, the other water. 

Famil}' 2. Father, eagle-hawk. Wife Xo. i, Hakea flower; 
no children. Wife Xo. 2, Hakea flower ; four sons, who are 
respectively witchett}^ grub, emu, eagle-hawk, elonka ; two 
daughters, both witchett\' grubs. 

F'amily 3. Father, witchetty grub. Wife Xo. i, lizard ; two 
sons, one lizard, the other witchett}' grub. Wife Xo. 2, lizard. 

Family 4. Father, emu. Wife, munyeru ; two sons, one 
kangaroo, the other, wild cat ; one daughter, lizard. 

Family 5. Father, witchettx- grub. Wife, witchetty grub ; 
two sons, one, kangaroo, the other, witchetty grub ; one 
daughter, witchetty grub. 

Taking these as typical examples of what is found through- 
out the whole tribe, we can see that while, as a! read)' stated, 
marriages are strictly regulated by class rules, the question of 
totem has nothing to do with the matter either so far as 
making it obligator}' for a man of one totem to marry a 
woman of another particular one, or so far as the totem of 
the children is concerned. The totem name of the child 
does not of necessity follow either that of the father or that 
of the mother, but it ma)' correspond to one or both of them. 
Whether there ever was a time when, in the Arunta and 
other neighbouring tribes, marriage was regulated by totem 
it is difficult to say. At the present day it is not, nor can 
we find an)' evidence in the full and numerous traditions 
relating to the doings of their supposed ancestors which 
affords indications of a time when, as in the Urabunna tribe, 
a man might only marry a woman of a totem different from 


his own. In their curious totem regulations, the Arunta and 
Ilpirra tribes agree, as we know from personal observation, 
while we have reason to believe that large and important 
tribes living to the north of them — viz. the Kaitish, Warra- 
munga, Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina and W'alpari — are in 
accord with them on all important points. The difference in 
this respect between the tribes whose customs and organisa- 
tion are now described, and those of other tribes which 
have been dealt with by able and careful investigators, such 
as Grey, Fison, Howitt, Roth and others, will serve to show 
that various tribes and groups of tribes, starting doubtless 
from a common basis, but isolated from one another during 
long periods of time by physical barriers, have developed 
along different lines. Except, perhaps, in the extreme 
north and north-east, Australia has had for long ages no 
intercourse with outside peoples, and such as it has had 
has only affected a very small and insignificant coastal fringe 
of the continent, and even there the i nfluence has been but 
very slight. \\'hat we have to deal with is a great conti- 
nental area, peopled most probably by men who entered from 
the north and brought with them certain customs. We are 
not here concerned with the difficult question of exactly 
Avhere the ancestors of the present Australian natives came 
from. The most striking fact in regard to them at the present 
day is that over the whole continent, so far as is known, we 
can detect a community of customs and social organisation 
sufficient to .show that all the tribes inhabiting various parts 
are the offspring of ancestors who, prior to their migrating 
in various directions across the continent, and thus giving rise 
to groups separated to a great extent from one another by 
physical barriers, already practised certain customs and had 
the germs of an organisation which has been developed 
along different lines in different localities. 

The class and totem systems, variously modified as we 
now find them in different tribes, can only be adequately 
accounted for on the hypothesis that, when the ancestors of 
the present natives reached the country, they spread over it 
in various directions, separated into local groups, and devel- 
oped, without the stimulus derived from contact with out- 


side peoples, alonj^ various lines, each group retaining features 
in its customs and organisation such as can only be explained 
by supposing them all to have had a common ancestr\-.^ 

However, to return to the totems of the Arunta. It was 
while watching and questioning closely the natives during 
the performance of the Engwura ceremon)' — a description 
of which will be found in a later chapter — that we were able 
to find out the way in which the totem names of the indi- 
viduals originate and to gain an insight into the true nature 
of their totemic s}'stem. 

The Engwura ceremon}', which forins the last of the initi- 
atory rites through which the Arunta native must pass before 
he becomes what is called Urliara, or a fully developed 
native, admitted to all the most sacred secrets of the tribe, 
consisted in reality of a long series of ceremonies, the enact- 
ing of which occupied in all more than four months. Those 
with which we are here concerned were a large number, 
between sixty and sevent}- altogether, which were connected 
with the totems and were performed under the direction of 
the old men, who instructed the younger men both how to 
perform them and what the}' represented. 

The native name for ceremonies is Ouabara,^ and 
each one is known as a Ouabara of a certain totem associated 
with a particular spot. Thus we have, for example, the 
Ouabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna, which means a ceremon)' 
of the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called 
Ooraminna ; the Ouabara Achilpa of Urapitchera, which 
means a ceremony of the wild cat (a species of Dasyurus) 

' The evidence in favour of this i.s strikingly shown in regard t»j the details of 
the ceremonies concerned with the knocking out of teeth. In some parts of the 
continent this is retained as the important initiation rite, while in other parts it 
has lost this significance, and yet in all cases agreement in important details shows 
the common origin of the custom. Further evidence in regard to this will be 
dealt with in connection with the account of the ceremonies attendant on the 
knocking out of teeth. 

- This is not a corruption of the word corrol)lK)ree, which is a term used only, 
originally, by a tribe of the eastern coast, but now generally by whites to describe 
the ordinary dancing ceremonies, which are entirely different from the sacred 
ceremonies of the Arunta and other tribes. The word nual)ara belongs to the 
Arunta tongue. Corrobborce is a word which in many parts has been adopted by 
the natives after hearing the white men use it. 


totem of a place called Urapitchera on the Finke River ; 
the Ouabara Okira of Idracowra, which means a ceremon}- 
of the kangaroo totem of a place called Idracowra on the 
Finke River, or, to speak more correctly, of a special spot 
marked by the presence of a great upstanding column 
of sandstone, called by white men Chamber's pillar, of 
the native name for which, Idracowra is a corruption ; 
the Ouabara Unchichera of Imanda, which means a 
ceremony of the frog totem of a spot called by the natives 
Imanda, and by the white men Bad Crossing on the Hugh 
River. Each ceremony was thus concerned with a special 
totem, and not only this, but with a special division of a 
totem belonging to a definite locality, and, further, each 
ceremony was frequently, but by no means always, in the 
possession of, and presided over by, an old man of the totem 
and locality with which it was concerned. It will shortly be seen 
that the totems are strictly local, but that we have what may 
be called local centres of an\- one totem in various districts 
of the wide area over which the Arunta tribe is scattered. 
For our present purpose, which is the explanation of the wa}' 
in which each individual gets his or her totemic name, the 
following general account will suffice. 

The whole past history of the tribe may be said to be 
bound up with these totemic ceremonies, each of which is 
concerned with the doings of certain mythical ancestors who 
are supposed to have lived in the dim past, to which the 
natives give the name of the " Alcheringa." 

In the Alcheringa lived ancestors who, in the native mind, 
are so intimately associated with the animals or plants the 
name of which they bear that an Alcheringa man of, say, the 
kangaroo totem may sometimes be spoken of either as a 
man-kangaroo or as a kangaroo-man. The identit}' of the 
human individual is often sunk in that of the animal or plant 
from which he is supposed to have originated. It is useless 
to try and get further back than the Alcheringa ; the history 
of the tribe as known to the natives commences then. 

Going back to this far-away time, we find ourselves in the 
midst of semi-human creatures endowed with powers not 
possessed by their living descendants and inhabiting the same 

I20 XATI\'P: tribes of central AUSTRALIA CHAP. 

countr}' which is now inhabited by the tribe, but which was 
then devoid of many of its most marked features, the orii^in 
of which, such as the gaps and gorges in the Macdonnell 
Ranges, is attributed to these mythical Alcheringa ancestors. 

These Alcheringa men and woman are represented in 
tradition as collected together in companies, each of which 
consisted of a certain number of individuals belonging to one 
particular totem. Thus, for example, the ceremonies of the 
Engwura dealt with four separate groups of Achilpa or wild 
cat men. 

Whilst every now and then wc come across traditions, 
according to which, as in the case of the Achilpa, the totem is 
common to all, we alwaj's find that in each totem one 
moiety^ of the tribe predominates, and that, according to 
tradition, many of the groups of ancestral individuals con- 
sisted originally of men or women or of both men and women 
who all belonged to one moiety. Thus in the case of certain 
Okira or kangaroo groups we find only Kumara and Purula ; 
in certain Udnirringita or witchetty grub groups we find only 
Bukhara and Panunga ; in certain Achilpa or wild cat a 
predominance of Kumara and Purula, with a smaller number 
of Bukhara and Panunga. 

At the present day no totem is confined to either moiety of 
the tribe, but in each local centre we always find a great 
predominance of one moiety, as for example at Alice Springs, 
the most important centre of the witchetty grubs, where, 
amongst forty individuals, thirty-five belong to the Bukhara 
and Panunga, and fi\e only to the other moiety of the tribe. 

These traditions with regard to the way in which the 
Alcheringa ancestors were distributed into companies, the 
members of which bore the same totem name and belonged, 
as a general rule, to the same moiety of the tribe, are of 
considerable importance when we come to consider the con- 
ditions which now obtain with regard to totems. It is not 
without importance to notice that the traditions of the tribe 
jjoint back to a time when, for the most part, the members of 

' As stated in connection with the description of the organisation of the tribe, 
the latter can l)e divided into two moieties, one comprising the I'animga and 
Bukhara, and the (jther the I'urula and Kimiara, or the equivalents of these. 


an\- particular totem were confined to one moiety of the tribe, 
in face of the fact that at the present day it seems to be a cha- 
racteristic feature of many tribes — such as the Urabunna, which 
are in a less highh' developed state than the Arunta, Ilpirra 
and certain other tribes of Central Australia — that the totems 
are strictly confined to one or other of the two moieties of 
the tribe, and that they regulate marriage. At the same time it 
may again be pointed out that the totems in no wa}- regulate 
marriage in the tribes mentioned, and, further still, we can find 
no evidence in an}- of the traditions, numerous and detailed 
as they are, of a time when marriage in these tribes was ever 
regulated b\- the totems. 

If now we turn to the traditions and examine those relating 
to certain totems which may be taken as illustrative of the 
whole series, we find that they are concerned almost entirely 
with the way in which what we may call the Alcheringa 
members of the various totems came to be located in various 
spots scattered over the countr}- now occupied b\- the tribe 
the members of which are regarded as their descendants, or, 
to speak more precisely, as their reincarnations. We will 
take as examples the following totems — Achilpa or wild cat, 
Unjiamba or Hakea flower, Unchichera or frog, and 
Udnirringita or witchett}- grub.^ 

In the Alcheringa there appear to have been four companies 
of wild cat men and women who, tradition says, appeared 
first in the southern part of the country. It has been already 
pointed out that, in the native mind, the ideas of the human 
and animal nature of these individuals are ver)- closel}- 
associated together. Starting from the south out to the east 
of Charlotte Waters, one of these companies, consisting in this 
case of Bukhara and Panunga individuals, marched north- 
wards, keeping as they did so considerabh- to the east of the 
River Finke. A second and larger party, consisting of Purula 
and Kumara individuals, came from the south-west and, at a 
place not far from Henbury on the Finke River, divided into 
two parties. One of them crossed the Finke and went on 
northwards to the Macdonnell Ranges, which were traversed 

^ A detailed account of the wanderings of these ancestral groups is given in 
Chapters X. and XI. 


a little to the east of Alice Springs, and then passed on 
northwards. The other half, forming the third part)-, followed 
up the Finke for some distance, crossing it at a spot now 
called Running Waters, after which the Macdonnell Ranges 
were traversed some twenty or twent)'-five miles to the west 
of Alice Springs, and then the party passed on to the north 
in the direction of Central Mount Stuart. The fourth part}-, 
consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, started from 
far away to the south-east, and travelled northwards, crossing 
the Range at Mount Sender, and continued its course north- 
wards, so says tradition, until it reached the countr}- of the 
salt water. 

The principal traditions with regard to the Unjiamba or 
Hakea flower totem refer to the wanderings of certain women. 
In one account, two women of this totem are described as 
coming from a j)lace about 35 miles to the north of Alice 
Springs, where the\- had a sacred pole or Nurtunja} Start- 
ing southwards, the\- travelled first of all underground, and 
came out at a place called Arajjera. Here they spent their 
time eating Unjiamba. Then leaving here they took their 
sacred pole or Nurtunja to pieces and travelled further on 
until they came to Ooraminna, in the Macdoiuiell Ranges, 
where there is a special water-hole close beside which the}- 
sat down and died, and two great stones arose to mark the 
exact spot where they died. In their journe}- these two 
women followed close b\' the track taken b\- one of the 
Achilpa parties, but did not actually come into contact with 
the latter, which was travelling in the opposite direction. 

In addition to these traditions of the wanderings of various 
companies of men and women belonging to different totems, 
we meet with others which refer to the origin of special indi- 
viduals, or groups of individuals, who did not wander about 
but lived and died w here they sprang up. Thus, for example, 
an Inarlinga or " porcujjine " (Echidnaj man is supposed to 
have arisen near to Stuart's watcrhole on the Hugh River, 

* \'ariou.s forms of Nurlinija will he dcscrihed in the accounl of the Enj;wura 
ceremony. Each consists of a central support, made inost often of one or more 
sjiears and wound round with human hair string, which is then decorated with 


while at the Emil}- Gap. near to AHce Springs, tradition says 
that certain witchett}- grubs became transformed into witchetty 
men, who formed a strong group here, and who were after- 
wards joined b}- others of the same totem, who marched over 
the countr\- to the Gap. 

Each of these xAlcheringa ancestors is represented as carr\-- 
ing about with him, or her, one or more of the sacred stones, 
which are called by the Arunta natives Churinga,^ and each 
of these Churinga is intimatel}' associated with the idea of 
the spirit part of some individual. Either where they origin- 
ated and stayed, as in the case of certain of the witchett}- 
grub people, or else where, during their wanderings, they 
camped for a time, there were formed what the natives call 
Oknanikilla, each one of which is in realit}' a local totem 
centre. At each of these spots, and they are all well known 
to the old men, who pass the knowledge on from generation 
to generation, a certain number of the Alcheringa ancestors 
went into the ground, each one carrying his Churinga with 
him. His bod}- died, but some natural feature, such as a 
rock or tree, arose to mark the spot, while his spirit part 
remained in the Churinga. At the same time many of the 
Churinga which they carried with them, and each one of 
which had associated with it a spirit individual, were placed 
in the ground, some natural object again marking the spot. 
The result is that, as we follow their wanderings, ^^-e find that 
the whole country is dotted over with Oknaniktl/a, or local 
totem centres, at each of which are deposited a number of 
Churinga, with spirit individuals associated with them. Each 
Oknanikilla is, of course, connected with one totem. In one 
part we ha\"e a definite locality, with its group of wild cat 
spirit individuals ; in another, a group of emu ; in another, a 
group of frog, and so on through the various totems ; and it 
is this idea of spirit individuals associated with Churinga and 
resident in certain definite spots that lies at the root of the 
present totemic system of the Arunta tribe. 

As we have said, the exact spot at which a Churinga was 

^ This Churinga is the equivalent of the bull-roarer or whirler of other authors. 
It has such a special significance amongst these tribes that we shall use the local 


deposited was always marked by some natural object, such as 
a tree or rock, and in this the spirit is supposed to especially 
take up its abode, and it is called the spirit's iVafi/a} 

We may take the following as a typical example of how 
each man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice 
Springs is a large and important witchett\- grub totem 
centre or Oknanikilla. Here there were deposited in the 
Alcheringa a large number of Churinga carried b\- witchetty 
grub men and women. A large number of prominent rocks 
and boulders and certain ancient gum-trees along the sides 
of a picturesque gap in the ranges, are the Naiijn trees and 
rocks of these spirits, which, so long as they remain in spirit 
form, they usually frequent. If a woman conceives a child )'/ 
after having been near to this gap, it is one of these spirit 
individuals which has entered her body, and therefore, quite 
irrespective of what the mother's or father's totem ma}' 
chance to be, that child, when born, must of necessity be of 
the witchetty grub totem ; it is, in fact, nothing else but the 
reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people of the 
Alcheringa. Suppose, for example, to take a particular and 
actual instance, an emu woman from another locality comes 
to Alice Springs, and whilst there becomes aware that she 
has conceived a child, and then returns to her own locality 
before the child is born, that child, though it may be born 
in an emu locality, is an Udnirringita or witchett\- grub. It 
must be, the natives say, because it entered the mother at 
Alice Springs, where there are onl)' witchetty grub spirit indi- 
viduals. Had it entered her body within the limits of her own 
emu localit)', it would as inevitably have been an emu. To 
take another example, quite recently the lubra or wife of a 
witchetty grub man, she belonging to the same totem, con- 
ceived a child while on a visit to a neighbouring Quatcha or 
water localit}-, which lies away to the east of Alice Springs, 
that child's totem is water ; or, again, an Alice Springs 
woman, when asked b}- us as to why her child was a witchett}' 
grub (in this instance belonging to the same totem as both 
of its parents}, told us that one day she was taking a drink 

' Furlher lictails with regard lo this, and the relationship of the spirit to the 
Nanja, are given in Chapter W. 


of water near to the gap in the Ranges where the spirits 
dwell when suddenly she heard a child's voice crying out, 
"■ Mia,mia !" — the native term for relationship which includes 
that of mother. Not being anxious to have a child, she ran 
away as fast as she could, but to no purpose ; she was fat and 
well favoured, and such women the spirit children prefer ; 
one of them had gone inside her, and of course it was born a 
witchetty grub.^ 

The ratives are quite clear upon this point. The spirit 
children are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat 
women, and prefer to choose such for their mothers, even at 
the risk of being born into the wrong class. We are ac- 
quainted with special, but somewhat rare cases, in which a 
living man is regarded as the reincarnation of an Alcheringa 
ancestor whose class was not the same as that of his living 
representative. At Alice Springs there is a man who is an 
Uknaria belonging to the lizard totem, and is regarded as 
the reincarnation of a celebrated Purula lizard man of the 
Alcheringa. The spirit child deliberately, so the natives say, 
chose to go into a Kumara instead of into a Bukhara woman, 
and so the man was born Uknaria instead of Purula. Though 
the class was changed, the totem could not possibly be. 

Such examples could be multiplied indefinitel}- ; but these, 
which may be taken as typical ones, will serve to show that, 
though at first sight puzzling, yet in reality the totem name 
follows a very definite system, if once we grant the premises 
firmly believed in by the Arunta native. 

One point of some interest is brought out b}- this inquiry 
into the origin of the totem names, and that is that, though 
the great majority of any one totem belong to one moiety of 
the tribe, }-et there may be, and in fact always are, a certain 
number of members who belong to the other moiet\-. Just as 
in the Alcheringa, all the witchett)' grub men were Bukhara 
and Panunga, so at the present da}' are the great majority of 
their descendants who inhabit the local areas in which the 
mythical ancestors formed witchett}- totem centres. So, in 

^ Spirit children are also supposed to be especially fond of travelling in whirl- 
winds, and, on seeing one of these, which are ver)- frequent at certain times of the 
year, approaching her, a woman will at once run away. 


the same way, all the Alcheringa emu ancestors were Piirula 
and Kumara, as now are the <;^reat majorit)' of tlieir de- 
scendants, but, owing to the system according to which totem 
names are acquired, it is always possible for a man to be, sa}-, 
a Purula or a Kumara and yet a witchetty, or, on the other 
hand, a Bukhara or a Panunga, and yet an emu. 

Two things are essential — first a child must belong to the 
totem of the spot at which the mother believes that it was 
conceived, and, second, it must belong to the moiety of the 
tribe to which its father belongs. Its totem ne\er changes, 
but its class ma\-. Once born \nU) a totem, no matter 
what his class may be, a man, when initiated, may witness 
and take part in all the sacred ceremonies connected with 
the totem, but, unless he belong to the predominant moiety, 
he will never, or only in extremely rare cases, become the 
head man or Alatunja of any local group of the totem. 
His only chance of becoming Alatunja is by the death of 
ever)' member of the group who belongs to the moiety to 
which the Alcheringa men belonged. 

What has gone before will serve to show what we mean 
by speaking of the totems as being local in their distribution. 
The whole district occupied b)' the Arunta, and the same 
holds true of the Ilpirra and Kaitish tribes, can be mapped 
out into a large number of areas of various sizes, some of 
which are actually only a few square yards in extent, while 
others occup)- many square miles, and each of which centres 
in one or more spots, for which the native name is OkiuDii- 
killa — a term which may be best rendered by the phrase 
" local totem centre." Each of these represents a spot where 
Alcheringa ancestors either originated or where they camped 
during their wanderings, and where some of them went down 
into the ground with their Churinga, or where they deposited 
Churinga. In an}' case the Churinga remained there, each 
one associated with a spirit individual, and from these have 
sprung, and still continue to spring, actual men and women 
who of necessity bear the totem name of the Churinga from 
which they come. 

We shall, later on, deal in greater detail with the traditions 
which are concerned with the wanderings of the ancestors of 


the local totem groups, and also with certain points of im- 
portance, such as the various ceremonies connected with the 
totems and the relationship existing between the individual 
and his totem. It will be evident from the general account 
already given that the totemic system of the Arunta and 
other Central Australian tribes differs in important respects 
from those of other tribes which have hitherto been described. 
It is based upon the idea of the reincarnation of Alcheringa 
ancestors, who were the actual transformations of animals and 
plants, or of such inanimate objects as clouds or water, fire, 
wind, sun, moon and stars. To the Australian native there is 
no difficult}- in the assumption that an animal or a plant 
could be transformed directly into a human being, or that the 
spirit part which he supposes it to possess, just as he does in 
his own case, could remain, on the death of the animal, 
associated with such an object as a Churinga, and at some 
future time arise in the form of a human being. 

The account which the Arunta native gives of the origin of 
the totemic names of the various members of the tribe is to him 
a perfectly feasible one. What gave rise in the first instance 
to the association of particular men with particular animals 
and plants it does not seem possible to say. The Arunta 
man accounts for it b}- creating a series of myths, according to 
which he is the direct descendant of the animal or plant, and 
weaves in and around these myths details of the most 
circumstantial nature. 

We shall have to return to the question of the totems after 
certain of these myths of the Alcheringa have been related ; 
meanv.-hile it may be said that, though different in certain 
respects from that of other Australian tribes, yet the totemic 
system of the Arunta shows us the one essential feature 
common to all totemic systems, and that is the intimate 
association between the individual and the material object, 
the name of which he bears. 



(leneral description of Churinga — Mystery attached to their use — Finding of the 
Churinga when the child is born — The A'aiija tree i>r stone — Kelationshij) 
lietwecn an individual and his Aanja — The Erhia/ttltniga or sacred storehouse ; 
its sanctity — The earliest rudiment of the idea of a city of refuge — The sjiirit 
part placed in the Churinga undergoes reincarnation — The Tundun in the case 
of the Jeraeil of the Kurnai tribe is associated \vith a great ancestor — No 
association between the siiirit jxirt of the living man and his Churinga, but 
between the Arumburinga, the spirit double of the man, and the Churinga — 
The giving (jf a sacred or Churinga name — Reticence with regard to secret 
names — The showing of his Churinga Aanja to a man — Examination of the 
Churinga at the Ertnatiiluitga — Ceremony concerned with telling a man his 
Churinga name — Exact contents of an Ertnatulimga — The term "message- 
stick " misleading as applied to the Churinga — Descriptions of particular 
Churinga, and explanation of the designs uj^on them — Resemblance between 
the initiation rites and Churinga of the Central tribes and those of Central 
(Queensland, described by Mr. Roth — Absence of stone Churinga amongst 
southern groups — Ownership of the Churinga — Extinction and subsequent 
resuscitation of a local totemic grouj) — The Churinga taken charge of by 
another group — Examples of extinction of local totemic grou])s — The Churinga 
are under the charge of the Alatunja — Inheritance of Churinga of men and 
women — \'arious forms of Churinga — The Churinga of the Kaitish and 
Waagai tribes — The borrowing and returning of Churinga ; ceremonies 
attendant upon the same. 

ChuriN(;a is tlie name given by the Arunta natives to 
certain sacred objects which, on penalty of death or very 
severe punishment, such as bhnding by means of a fire-stick, 
are never allowed to be seen by women or uninitiated men. 
The term is applied, as we shall see later, to various objects 
associated with the totems, but of these the greater number 
belong to that class of rounded, oval or elongate, flattened 
stones and slabs of wood of very various sizes, to the smaller 
ones of which the name of bull-roarer is commonly applied. 

The importance and use of these in various ceremonies 
such as those attendant upon initiation of the joung men, was 


I, Chimbaliri of the Urabunna tribe ; 2, Churinga of bell-bird totem, Luritcha 
tribe ; 3, Churinga of frog totem, Arunta tribe ; 4, Churinga of lizard 
totem, Arunta triVje ; 5, Churinga of emu totem, Arunta tribe ; 6, Very old 
Churinga of lizard totem, Arunta tribe ; 7, Churinga wrapped in bark as 
it is when carried about. 


first shown in Australia by Messrs. Howitt and Fison, and 
since then they have been repeatedly referred to by other 

Amongst the aborigines of the Centre, as indeed everywhere 
else where they are found, considerable mystery is attached 
to their use — a mystery which has probably had a large part 
of its origin in the desire of the men to impress the women of 
the tribe with an idea of the supremacy and superior power of 
the male sex. From time immemorial myths and super- 
stitions have grown up around them, until now it is difficult to 
say how far each individual believes in what, if the expression 
may be allowed, he must know to be more or less of a fraud, 
but in which he implicitly thinks that the other natives 

Whilst living in close intercourse with the natives, spending 
the days and nights amongst them in their camps while they 
were preparing for and then enacting their most sacred cere- 
monies, and talking to them day after day, collectively and 
individually, we were constantly impressed with the idea, as 
probably many others have been before, that one blackfellow 
will often tell you that he can and does do something magical, 
whilst all the time he is perfectly well aware that he cannot, 
and yet firml)' believes that some other man can really do it. 
In order that his fellows may not be considered in this respect 
as superior to himself he is obliged to resort to what is really 
a fraud, but in course of time he may even come to lose sight 
of the fact that it is a fraud which he is practising upon 
himself and his fellows. At all events, and especially in 
connection with the Churinga, there are amongst the i\ustralian 
natives beliefs which can have had no origin in fact, but 
which have gradually grown up until now they are implicitly 
held. It is necessary to realise this aspect of the native 
mind in order to understand the influence which some of 
their oldest and most sacred beliefs and customs have upon 
their lives. 

We may say at once that the Churinga are one and all 
connected with the totems, and that the word signifies a 
sacred object, sacred because it is thus associated with the 
totems and may never be seen except upon very rare occasions, 


J, la, Churinga enclosed in human hair string and carried about together, Arunta tribe; 
2, Churinga of euro totem, Arunta tribe ; 3, Churinga of water totem, Arunta tribe ; 
4, Churinga of witchetty grub totem, Arunta tribe ; 5, Churinga of Hakea tree totem, 
Arunta tribe ; 6, 7, Churinga and feather covering of the Warramunga tribe ; 8, 9, 
Churinga of the Kaitish tribe. 

K 2 


and then only in the distance and indistinctly by women and 
uninitiated men. 

In the last chapter we described the association between 
men of the Alcherini^a and their Churinga. We saw that 
each spirit individual was closely bound up with his Churinga, 
which he carried with him as he wandered about his ancestral 
home, the Oknanikilla, or rested on the Nanja tree or stone 
which he is supposed especiall}- to frequent. 

The tradition of the natives is that when the spirit child 
goes inside a woman the Churinga is dropped. When the 
child is born the mother tells the father the position of the 
tree or rock near to which she supposes the child to have 
entered her, and he, together with one or two of the older men, 
who are close relatives of the man, and of whom the father of 
the latter is usually^ one, and also an elder brother of the 
father, goes to the locality', at once if it be near at hand, or 
when opportunity offers if it be distant, and searches for the 
dropped Churinga. The latter is usually, but not always, 
supposed to be a stone one marked with a device peculiar to 
the totem of the spirit child and therefore of the newly-born 
one. Sometimes it is found, sometimes it is not. In the 
former case, which is stated to occur often, we must suppose 
that some old man — it is most often the Arunga or paternal 
grandfather who finds it — has provided himself with one for 
the occasion, which is quite possible, as Churinga belonging to 
their own totem are not infrequently carried about by the old 
men, who obtain them from the sacred storehouse in which 
they are kept. We questioned native after native on this 
subject — some of them had actually found such stones — but 
there was no shaking them in the firm belief that such a 
Churinga was always dropped by the spirit child whether it 
was found or not. If it cannot be found then they proceed 
to make a wooden one from the Mulga or other hard wood 
tree nearest to the Nanja, and to carve on it some device or 
brand peculiar to the totem. 

Ever afterwards the Nanja tree or stone of the spirit is the 
Nanja of the child, and the Churinga is its Churinga nanja. 

As might have been expected, there is a definite relation- 
ship supposed to exist between an individual and his Nanja 


tree or stone. Whilst the behef is by no means general at 
the present time, there is at least one definite case known to 
us in which a blackfellow earnestly requested a white man 
not to cut down a particular tree because it was his Xanja 
tree, and he feared that if cut down some evil would befall 
him. Very possibly in times past this feeling was more 
widely prevalent than it is now. At the present time the 
special association between a man and his Nanja tree lies in 
the fact that every animal upon that tree is ekirinja or tabu 
to him. If an opossum or a bird be in the tree it is sacred 
and must not on any account be touched. There is no special 
ceremony performed by the individual in reference to his 
Nanja tree, but it is one in which he is supposed to have a 
special interest as having been the home of the spirit whose 
reincarnation he is. 

In each Oknanikilla or local totem centre, there is a spot 
called by the natives the Ertnatuhinga. This is, in reality, a 
sacred storehouse, which usually has the form of a small cave 
or crevice in some unfrequented spot amongst the rough hills 
and ranges which abound in the area occupied by the tribe. 
The entrance is carefully blocked up with stones so naturally 
arranged as not to arouse suspicion of the fact that they 
conceal from view the most sacred possessions of the tribe. 
In this, often carefully tied up in bundles, are numbers of the 
Churinga, and in one or other of these storehouses every 
member of the tribe, men and women alike, is represented by 
his or her Churinga nanja. When, after the birth of a child, 
one of the latter is found, or made, it is handed over to the 
headman of the local totem group within the district occupied 
by which the child was conceived, and is b}- him deposited in 
the Ertnatuhinga. 

The spot at which the child was born and brought up, and 
at which it will spend probably the greater part of its life, has 
nothing whatever to do with determining the resting place of 
the Churinga nanja. That goes naturally to the storehouse 
of the locality from which the spirit child came — that is to 
the spot where the Churinga was deposited in the Alcheringa. 
In the case, for example, which has already been quoted, in 
which a witchetty woman conceived a child in an emu 


locality, twelve miles to the north of Alice Springs, the latter 
place being the woman's home, the child was born at the 
latter and lives there, but the Chnringa nanja was found at 
the place of conception and is now deposited in the store- 
house of that group. 

So far as the possession of Churinga nanja is concerned^ 
men and women are alike, each possesses one or, as will be 
seen later, ver)- rarely more than one. Whilst, however, there 
comes a time when each man is allowed to see and handle 
his, the women not only may never see them but, except in 
the case of the ver\' old women, they are unaware of the 
existence of any such objects. Into the mysteries of the 
Ertnatulunga and its contents no woman dare prj- at risk 
of death. The position of the Ertnatulunga — not their exact 
position, but their locality — is known to the women, who are 
obliged to go long distances round in order to avoid going 
anywhere near to them. One of these storehouses was on 
the side of a deep gap which, for several miles in either 
direction, is the only way of passing through the ranges 
which lie to the south of Alice Springs, and, until the advent 
of the white man, no woman was ever allowed to walk 
through the gap, but, if she wished to traverse the ranges, she 
had to climb the steep declivities in order to pass across, and 
this also at some distance from the gap. Even at the present 
day, unless in the company of a white man, she carefully 
avoids the side on which lies the cleft which serves as a store- 
house for Churinga, and it is only the presence of white men 
in this localit}' which has resulted in women being allowed tO' 
walk through the gap. 

The immediate surroundings of one of these Ertnatulunga 
is a kind of haven of refuge for wild animals ; once they come 
close to one of these they are safe, because any animal — emu 
or kangaroo or wallaby — which, when pursued, ran by instinct 
or by chance towards the Ertnatulunga was, when once it 
came close to it, tabu and safe from the spear of the pursuing 
native. Even the plants in the immediate vicinity of the 
spot are never touched or interfered with in any way. 

The sanctity of the Ertnatulunga may be understood when' 
it is remembered that it contains the Churinga, which are; 


associated not only with the living members of the tribe, but 
also with the dead ones. Indeed, many of the Churinga are 
those of special men of the Alcheringa, who, as tradition relates, 
wandered about and descended at these spots into the earth 
where their Churinga, the very ones which are now within the 
storehouse, remained associated with their spirit part. Each 
Churinga is so closely bound up with the spirit individual 
that it is regarded as its representative in the Ertnatulnnga, 
and those of dead men are supposed to be endowed with the 
attributes of their owner and to actually impart these to the 
person who, for the time being, may, as when a fight takes 
place, be fortunate enough to carr}' it about with him.^ The 
Churinga is supposed to endow the possessor with courage 
and accurac}- of aim, and also to deprive his opponent of 
these qualities. So firm is their belief in this that if two men 
were fighting and one of them knew that the other carried a 
Churinga whilst he did not, he would certainly lose heart at 
once and without doubt be beaten. 

The Ertnatulnnga may be regarded as the earl}- rudiment 
of a city or house of refuge. Everything in its immediate 
vicinity is sacred and must on no account be hurt ; a man 
who was being pursued by others would not be touched so 
long as he remained at this spot. During the Engwura 
ceremon)', when temporary storehouses were made to hold 
the large number of Churinga which were brought in to the 
ceremonial ground, and when, as always happens when men 
from different parts are assembled in large number, there 
arose any small quarrel, no display of arms was allowed 
anywhere near to the stores of Churinga. If the men wanted 
to quarrel the>- had to go right awa}- from the Churinga 

The loss of Churinga is the most serious evil which could 
befall a group, but, though it might have been expected that 

* A remarkable custom with regard to stone Churinga may be noticed here. 
\N'hen a man is ill he will sometimes have a stone Churinga belonging to his totem 
brought from the storehouse. With the flint flake of his spear-thrower he will scrape 
off some of the edge of the Churinga, mix the dust with water and drink it, the 
mixture being supposed to be verj- strengthening. The idea evidently is that in 
some way he absorbs part of the essence of the stone, thereby gaining strength, as. 
it is endowed with the attrit)utes of the individual whom it represents. 


stealing them would have been resorted to in times of fighting 
between different groups, yet this does not seem to take 
place. This is probably to be accounted for in various ways. 
In the first place the exact spot, which is under the charge 
primarily of the headman of the group and of the older men 
associated with him, is only known to the initiated men of 
the group, all of whom are equally and deepl)- interested in 
keeping the secret. Beyond this an)' interference by a 
stranger would surely result sooner or later in the death of 
the latter. The knowledge also that retaliation of a similar 
kind would inevitably follow must have acted as a strong 
deterrent on an\' individual or group who was at all anxious 
to interfere with other peoples' Churinga. Whatever the 
reasons for it may be the fact remains that on the very few 
occasions on which we could find out that the Ertnatnlunga 
had been robbed the aggressors were white men. On each 
occasion also the natives have attempted to kill the member 
of the tribe who had shown the spot to the white men, and 
would certainly have been successful in so doing but for the 
protection afforded to the guide by the latter. In the case 
of the removal of the Churinga from one of these Ertnatnlmiga, 
the men of the group to which they belonged stayed in camp 
for two weeks weeping and mourning over their loss and 
plastering themselves over with white pipecla)', the emblem 
of mourning for the dead. 

Whilst, on the one hand, the Churinga seem to be safe from 
robbers, so far as the natives are concerned, on the other hand, 
as we shall see shortly, they are occasionally lent as an act of 
courtesy by one group to another friendly group. 

We have already said that the original Churinga — that is of the Alcheringa, with regard to the origin of which 
the natives have no tradition — are all, or at least the great 
majority of them, supposed to have been of stone. What 
was the origin of these we have been unable to determine ; 
they were present in the Alcheringa, and behind that it is 
impossible to penetrate. Once we ventured to inquire 
whether there was no story relating how the Alcheringa men 
came to have them, but the mirth which the question provoked 
showed us that to the mind of the Arunta native the idea 


of the possibility of anything before the Alcheringa was a 
ridiculous and an incomprehensible one. In this tribe " It 
was so in the Alcheringa " takes the place of the more usual 
form of expression : " Our fathers did it, and therefore we do 
it," which is so constantly the only reply which the ethnolo- 
gical inquirer receives to the question : " Why ? " 

We have evidently in the Churinga belief a modification of 
the idea which finds expression in the folklore of so many 
peoples, and according to which primitive man. regarding his 
soul as a concrete object, imagines that he can place it in 
some secure spot apart, if needs be, from his body, and thus, if 
the latter be in any way destroyed, the spirit part of him still 
persists unharmed. The further extension of the idea 
according to which the spirit can undergo reincarnation is, 
at least so far as Australian tribes are known, a feature 
peculiar to the Central tribes. At the same time we are not 
without indications that possibly other tribes, though the 
system is not so highly developed as in the case of the 
Arunta, may to a certain extent associate with the bull-roarer 
the idea of the spirit part of some great ancestor. We are not 
referring to the fact that, as Mr. Howitt first showed, and as 
has since been abundantly verified by other workers, the 
women and children are taught to believe that the voice of 
the bull-roarer is that of some spirit such as Daramulun, but 
in Mr. Howitt's paper dealing with the Jeraeil of the Kurnai 
tribe ^ we meet with the still more suggestive fact that at a 
certain time during the initiation ceremonies the men who 
are in charge of the novices say to them, " This afternoon 
we will take you, and show your grandfather to you." 
" This," says Mr. Howitt, " is the cryptic phrase used to 
describe the central mystery, which in reality means the 
exhibition to the novices of the Tundun, and the revelation 
to them of ancestral beliefs." The Tundun is the native 
name amongst the Kurnai for the bull-roarer. In this 
account we see, first, that the bull-roarer is identified with a 
man who is regarded as a great ancestor or Weitwin, that is 
father's father of the Kurnai. He it was who conducted the 
first ceremony of initiation, and he made the bull-roarer which 

* Jourii. Anth. IiisL, May, 1885, p. 301. 


bears his name and also made another smaller one which 
represents his wife. It is quite possible that under a some- 
what modified form we have in this legend of the Kurnai an 
expression of the same idea as that which has undergone still 
further development in the case of the tribes in the centre of 
the continent. 

To return however to the Arunta. We meet in tradition 
with unmistakable traces of the idea that the Churinga is the 
dwelling place of the spirit of the Alcheringa ancestors. In 
one special group of Achilpa men, for example, the latter are 
reported to have carried about a sacred pole or Ntirtunja with 
them during their wanderings. When they came to a camp- 
ing place and went out hunting the Xurtiinja was erected, and 
upon this the men used to hang their Churinga when they 
went out from camp, and upon their return they took them 
down again and carried them about. In these Churinga they 
kept, so says the tradition, their spirit part. 

Whilst this is so with regard to the Alcheringa men and 
women it must be clearly pointed out that at the present day 
the Arunta native does not regard the Churinga as the abode 
of his own spirit part, placed in the Ertnatulnuga for safe 
keeping. If anything happens to it — if it be stolen — he 
mourns over it deeply and has a vague idea that some ill ma}' 
befall him, but he does not imagine that damage to the 
Churinga of necessity means destruction to himself. In the 
native mind the value of the Churinga, at the present day, 
whatever may have been the case in past time, lies in the fact 
that each one is intimately associated with, and is indeed the 
representative of, one of the Alcheringa ancestors, with the 
attributes of whom it is endowed.^ When the spirit [jart has 
gone into a woman and a child has, as a result, been born^ 
then that living child is the reincarnation of that particular 
spirit individual. 

Not only does each member of the tribe have a Churinga 
nanja but, shortly after the birth of the child, the headman of 

' In addition 10 this the Aruinburinga of the individual (that is his spirit double) 
is supposed to be especially fond of paying visits to the storehouse in which the 
Churinga is kej)!, and it is feared that if the Churinga be taken away the Antin- 
huriiiga will follow it, and thus the individual will lose the guardianship of the 


the particular group in whose Ertnatiilnnga the Churinga is. 
deposited consults with the older men of the group and 
bestows upon him (and the same holds true in the case of a 
female child^ his Aritna clniringa, or secret name.^ Every 
member of the tribe has his or her secret name, which may be 
either a new one or that of some celebrated man or woman of 
the Alcheringa whose name has been handed down in the 
traditions. This secret name is never uttered except upon 
the most solemn occasions when the Churinga are being 
examined, and that of an}- particular individual is only known 
to the fully initiated men of his own local totem group. To 
utter such a name in the hearing of women or of men of 
another group would be a most serious breach of tribal 
custom, as serious as the most flagrant case of sacrilege amongst 
white men. When mentioned at all it is onl}' in a whisper, 
and then after taking the most elaborate precautions- lest it 
should be heard by an\-one outside the members of his own 
group. The native thinks that a stranger knowing his 
secret name would have special power to work him ill by 
means of magic. 

Before being allowed to see the Ertnatuhinga the native 
must have passed through the ceremonies of circumcision and 
subincision, and have shown himself capable of self-restraint 
and of being worthy b}- his general demeanour to be admitted 
to the secrets of the tribe. If he be what the natives call 
irkun oknirra, that is, light and frivolous and too much 
given to chattering like a woman, it ma\' be man}- years 

^ Aritna means name, and Chtiringa signifies sacred or .secret. The word 
Churinga is used either as a substantive, when it implies a sacred emblem, or as 
a qualifying term, when it implies sacred or secret. 

- During the course of the Engwura we often had occasion to notice this extreme 
reticence on the part of the natives. If only men of the same totemic group were 
present we were then able to learn the secret names, though not easily, as they 
would only speak in such a low whisper that it was a matter of difficulty to hear 
what was said. If other men were present then it was impossible to gain the in- 
formation, for, when questioned, they knew absolutely nothing about the matter, 
and assumed an air of frigid reticence. We soon learned to know that this meant 
not that they were unable to reply to our questions, but that tribal custom forbade 
them to speak in the presence of some member of the party. When talking with 
them over matters such as this they would send away certain men before saying 
anything, and these men were those who did not belong to the totemic group-. 
about which we were inquiring. 


"before he is admitted to the secrets. When he is thought 
Avorthy of the honour, and at a time appointed by the 
Alatunja of the local group to which he belongs, he is taken, 
accompanied by the older men, to the Ertnatulunga. There 
he is shown the sacred Churinga which are examined care- 
fully and reverently, one by one, while the old men tell him 
to whom they now belong or have belonged. While this is 
going on a low singing of chants referring to the Alcheringa 
is kept up, and at its close the man is told his Churinga name 
and cautioned against ever allowing an\' one, except the men 
of his own group, to hear it uttered. Then, at least in the 
vvitchetty group in which wc have witnessed the performance, 
he is painted on the face and body with a kind of pinkish 
soapstone and red ochre by the Alatunja apd the older men 
who stand to him in the relationship of Okiiia, that is actual 
or tribal father. The pattern with which he is decorated 
represents the particular device belonging to the totem, and 
in this instance consisted of long parallel bands copied from 
the sacred painting which from time immemorial has existed 
on a smooth rock surface in the Emily gap, the local centre 
of the witchetty grub totem. When this has been done the 
party returns to camp and the painting is allowed to remain 
on the man's body until in course of time it wears off The 
old women are aware that he has been to the Ertnatulunga, 
but even they have no idea of the nature of the ceremony, 
and to the younger ones it is still more a matter of deep 
mystery, for no women in the natural condition of the tribe 
dare go near to the gap in which is the sacred rock painting, 
and near to which lies the Ertnatiilioiga. 

The e.xact contents of the Ertnatulunga vary of course 
from groujD to group, important ones containing a large 
number of Churinga many of which will be stone, but perhaps 
in the majority of the wooden ones will predominate. 
It does not, of course, follow that even a majority of them will 
belong to the totem with which the locality is associated ; 
for, owing to, first, the waj- in which Churinga are inherited, 
and second, the fact that one group will sometimes lend a 
certain number to a friendly group, Churinga belonging to 
•.various totems will always be found in one Ertnatulunga. 


We give as a fair example of a small-sized Ertnatiihinga 
an account of the contents of a sacred storehouse of the 
Yarumpa or honey-ant totem at a place called Ilyaba, away 
to the north-west of Alice Springs. The Ertnatiiliinga itself 
is a round hole in the side of a rocky hill, which hole was in 
the Alcheringa an ant nest. What may be called the prize of 
the collection is the Churinga, though it is only a small 
wooden one, of a celebrated Alcheringa leader of the Yarumpa 
people named Ilatirpa, who sent out the wandering bands of 
Yarumpa from Ilyaba, the great centre of the totem. A 
long stone Churinga represents a mass of honey which he 
carried with him and fed upon, and a slender stone Churinga,. 
pointed at each end, represents a piece of wood which he 
used for digging out the honey-ants. These two are the only 
stone ones in the storehouse which in this respect is rather 
poor. There are sixty-eight wooden Yarumpa Churinga 
and several Echunpa or lizard ones, three of which are very 
old and boomerang-shaped, and have been borrowed from a 
lizard group living near Hermannsburg on the Finke. In 
addition to these there are two Achilpa or wild cat Churinga 
which have been lent to a Yarumpa man by his son-in-law for 
a time. 

We may now describe more in detail the Churinga them- 
selves — that is the Churinga which are associated with the 
individuals and which, by various writers, have been described 
as ceremonial sticks and stones, festival plates, message-sticks 
or magic-sticks. The term message-stick is misleading ; it is 
quite true that one or more of them is carried by certain 
messengers sent to summon other members of the tribe to 
ceremonies of various kinds, but there is nothing in common 
between them and other message-sticks such as are found in 
other parts of the continent, on which notches and marks of 
different kinds are cut as an aid to the memory of the 
messenger, but w^hich without the verbal explanation of the 
messenger would, in no case, so far as we have reliable 
evidence, be capable of being deciphered by the recipient of 
the message. The Churinga carried by an Arunta messenger 
is, in reality, a badge of office showing the bona fides of the 
bearer, whose person is safe so long as he carries the sacred 


■emblem, and though the showing of the Churinga is regarded 
in the light of a summons which cannot, except at the risk of 
a serious quarrel, be neglected, yet it is misleading to apply 
the same term, message-stick, both to the sacred emblem, 
and to the stick, the marks, if an}', on which are quite 
arbitrarily drawn by the sender and cannot be deciphered 
without his assistance. We may remark in passing, that though 
we have made careful inquir)' we have been unable to 
discover the use of any real message-stick in the Arunta 

The Churinga of the Arunta — that is the particular ones 
with which we are now concerned — are of two descriptions, 
stone ones and wooden ones, the latter being sometimes 
spoken of as CImringa irtila. The wooden one, just like the 
stone one, is Churinga — indeed, the term inila, which simply 
means " dressed wood," is seldom used by the natives, and 
then only as a qualifying term, and never b)- itself The 
stone is no more sacred than the wooden one, and is most highly 
valued if it be, as many of them are, associated with some 
special Alcheringa ancestor. At the same time there are 
often wooden ones of evidently great antiquit)-, pieced 
together with sinew of kangaroo or emu to prevent them 
falling to pieces through decay of the less durable portions, 
and with holes carefull)' filled u|) with porcupine-grass resin, 
and such as these, though insignificant in appearance, are yet 
as highly valued as the stone ones. It may be generally said 
that the value of any particular Churinga, in the c}'cs of the 
natives, varies inversely with its value from a decorative point 
of view ; the more obliterated the design, the more it has 
been patched with resin and bound together with sinew, the 
more highly is it valued, and the careful way in which many 
of them have been thus preserved shows the value which is 
jilaced ujx)n them by the natives. 

Amongst the Churinga in each storehouse are usually a 
certain number of especially large ones made by Alcheringa 
men, or by specially celebrated men of olden times who lived 
since the Alcheringa, for the purpose of being used in the 

' .\ most valuable account of true message-sticks is given l)y Roth, loc. cit., 
p. 136- 


performance of ceremonies connected with the totems. These 
are spoken of as Churinga, but they differ from the majority 
in that there is not associated with them the idea of a spirit 
individual. In addition to these there are also at times other 
forms of Churinga present in the storehouse which represent 
such objects, for example, as the eggs of the witchetties, or in 
some cases a special object such as a pitchi which was carried 
about by an Alcheringa man, or a }-am-stick carried by a 

In size and shape they differ much. The smallest will be 
perhaps three or four inches in length, the longest five feet or 
more. In the Arunta tribe all, with very rare exceptions, are 
more or less flattened and either oval (rarely roughly circular) 
in outline, or, most usually, elongate with either end tapering 
to a more or less rounded point. Five very old wooden Churinga 
which belonged to two lizard totems differed from all the 
others of which, in company with the members of the various 
groups to which they belong, we have seen and examined 
many hundreds, in having the shape of a curved boomerang. 

The stone ones are always flat on either side, the wooden 
ones may be of the same form or more usually have one side 
flat, and the other slightly concave, or they may frequently be 
concavo-convex in transverse section. A certain number of 
the smaller ones — but this is not usual in those of more than a 
foot in length — have a hole pierced through them at one end 
to which is attached a string usually made of human or 
opossum hair. Those that are bored in this way and are 
only a few inches in length are used as bull-roarers during 
certain ceremonies, the sound being produced by whirling 
them rapidly round with the string kept taut between the 
hand and the bull-roarer, the latter rotating as it whirls 
through the air, and tightening the string which vibrates 
and produces the roaring sound. A certain number of the 
stone ones are bored like the wooden ones, but such are never 
used as bull-roarers, nor indeed, at the present da}', for any 
purpose which would require them to be thus bored. At the 
same time it may be pointed out that we have traditions 
according to which, in the Alcheringa, the men used to hang 
up their Churinga on the Xiirtiuija ; for this purpose they 


would require to be bored, and though at the present day- 
there is no need for this, yet that it is sometimes practised is 
no doubt to be associated with the myths of the Alcheringa. 

The stones are usually micaceous in nature, being split off 
from suitable rock, and then carefully ground down to the 
desired shape and size. The wooden ones are generally 
made of Mulga {Acacia aneta-a) for the simple reason first, that 
this wood is the hardest and most durable known to the 
natives, and second, that the tree is perhaps the most widely- 
distributed of any species throughout the great Central area 
and therefore easily obtainable. If, however, Mulga be not 
obtainable, then it may be made of the pine {Callitris sp.) or 
of some species of Eucalyptus the wood of which (such as 
that of E. tesselaris) the natives have learnt by long 
experience, is not touched by white ants. 

In the great majority of cases the Churinga, wooden ones 
and stone alike, have patterns incised on their surfaces, the 
tool used being usually an incisor tooth of an opossum, with 
which also the hole at one end, if present, is bored. In some 
cases, though these are quite in a minority, they are perfectly 
plain and show no markings of any kind, and in others, such 
as were once present, are now scarcely decipherable, owing to 
the constant rubbing to which they have been subjected at 
the hands of generation after generation of natives. 

Whenever the Churinga are examined by the old men ^ 
they are, especially the wooden ones, very carefully rubbed 
over with the hands. First of all dry red ochre is powdered 
on to them, and then rubbed in with the palm of the hand, 
the grease of which doubtless assists in preserving the wood 
to a certain extent. The stone ones are, some of them, rubbed 
with red ochre, but others with charcoal, which is never used 
in the case of the wooden ones. 

We now come to deal with the patterns on the Churinga 
all of which have a definite meaning attached to them, though 
to decipher each individual one, it is essential to gain the 
information from a man of the totem to which it belongs. 
Other natives may volunteer information, but as the same 

' A full arrMiin! of lliis is given in connectit)n with the description of the 


device will mean one thing to a native of one totem and quite 
another thing to a man who belongs to another totem, and as 
a man's knowledge is strict!}- confined to the designs of his 
own totem, it is quite unsafe to ask, say, an emu man to 
describe to you the markings on a wild cat Churinga, or 
vice versa. 

The whole design consists, with few exceptions, of a con- 
ventional arrangement of circular, semi-circular, spiral, curved 
and straight lines together often with dots. The most frequent 
design met with is that of a series of concentric circles or a 
close set spiral, the sets of circles or the spirals varying in 
number from two or three to as many as twent\', or even 
more ; and these, when present, usually indicate the most 
important object which it is intended to represent in the 
whole design. In one Churinga each will represent a tree, on 
another a frog, on another a kangaroo and so on, so that it 
will easily be realised that to obtain a true interpretation of 
any one Churinga, it is absolutely essential to obtain the 
information from some one to whom it is personally known, 
and such an one can only be an old man of the particular local 
totemic group to which it belongs ; it is only the old men 
who continually see and examine the Churinga of the group, 
which are very rarely indeed seen by any one who does not belong 
to the latter. Time after time, when \he.Ertnatulunga is visited, 
the Churinga are rubbed over and carefull}- explained by the 
old men to the younger ones, who in course of time come to 
know all about them that the old men can impart, and so the 
knowledge of whom the Churinga have belonged to, and 
what the design on each one means, is handed on from 
generation to generation. 

We will now explain the meaning of the designs on a few of 
the Churinga, as these will serve to illustrate and to give some 
general idea of them. The descriptions now given were 
obtained from the special individual in charge of whom the 
Churinga was, which is described in each instance. 

Figure A. represents the Churinga nanja of a dead man of 
the frog totem. On either side of the Churinga, which is a 
wooden one 39 cm. in length, are three large series of 
concentric circles {a)., which represent three large and 






r f the totem bclotv^cd ; the straight 
totem to which the owner o tl^e t^te ^^^.^^ ^^^ ^^^^^. ^^^^ 

lines {b) passing out from them on_o 



represent their large roots, and the two series of curved lines 
at one end (c) their smaller roots. These trees are intimately 
associated with the frog totem, as out of them frogs are 
supposed to come, which is doubtless an allusion to the fact 
that in the cavities of old gum-trees one species of frog is 
often found, and can be always heard croaking before the 
advent of rain. The smaller series of concentric circles on the 
same side of the Churinga {d) represent smaller gum-trees, the 
lines attached to them being their roots, and the dotted lines 
{e) along the edge are the tracks of the frogs as the}' hop 
about in the sand of the river bed. On the opposite side of the 
Churinga the large series of double concentric circles represent 
small frogs which have come out of the trees, and the lines 
connecting them are their 
limbs. This device of small 
concentric circles united by 
lines is a very common one 
on frog Churinga. 

Figure B. represents the 
Churinga nanja of the cele- 
brated Ilatirpa of the Yarumpa 
or honey-ant totem, and is in 
the storehouse at Ilyaba. The 
series of circles {a) with a 
hole bored in the middle of 
them represent the e\-e. The 
circles ili) represent the in- 
testines, {c) the painting on 
the stomach, and (d) the pos- 
terior part of the man. On 
the reverse side the circles ^ g) 
represent the intestines of the 
Alatirpa, a little bird which 
is regarded as the mate of the 

Figure C. represents the 
Churinga of an Achilpa or 
wild cat man. The three series of circles {a) represent Un- 
jiamba or Hakea trees, while the circles of spots {p) represent 

L 2 




the tracks of the men dancing round them. The Hnes (d) 
represent the Wanpa sticks, which are beaten together to keep 
time to the dancing ; and the dots (c) represent again the 
tracks of dancing men. This Churinga is in the store-house 
at Imanda, and was used during the Engwura ceremony. 





Figure D, represents the Churinga of an Udnirringita 
or witchetty grub man, and is in the Emily Gap store-house. 
The curved lines {a) represent a large grub, (Jb) represents a 
lot of grubs in a hole which is scooped out in the ground, 



and {c) represents a man sitting down and squeezing the dirt 
out of the animals preparatory to cooking them. On the 
reverse side, id) represents a grub, (e) the eggs of various 
sizes, and (/) marks on the body of the grub. 

Figure E. represents one side of the CImringa nanja of 
the elder of the two women who accompanied the Ulpmirka 
men of the Ukakia or plum-tree totem i Santahim sf>.) in the 


Alcheringa, and were taken awa}- to the north by a celebrated 
individual called Kukaitcha. The three series of concentric 
circles {a) represent frogs, the two outer rows of dots 
represent the tracks of the women. The lines across the 
Churinga ((5') represent bark of gum-trees, and the curved 
lines at one end {c) represent an old woman collecting frogs. 
Figure F. represents one side of the CJiuringa nanja of 
the vounger of the same two women. Here again the 


concentric circles (a) represent frogs, the semi-circles (b) 
represent women sitting down opposite to each 
other, while the dots between them (c) are the 
holes which thc\' make in scratching the frogs 
out of the sand. The three dotted lines at the 
end {(t) bored through represent the vulva. 

Figure G. represents the Chnriiiga nanja of 
an Echunpa or lizard man (the large lizard, 
Varanus gigantcus), and is remarkable as being 
one of the only five Chur- 
inga of this shape which 
we have seen amongst a 
very great number. On 
one side the greater part is 
occupied by four roughly 
parallel, sinuous lines which 
rej^resent the long tail of 
the animal ; the semi-cir- 
cular lines are the indica- 
tions of ribs, and the dotted 
lines at one end are the 
tracks. On the other side, 
{(i) represents the shoulder 
of the animal ; ib) the 
spotted black marks across 
the chest ; (f) the large 
ribs — those, as the natives 
say, with much fat on them ; 
id) the smaller ribs, and {c) 
the spotted marks along 
the under surface of the 
animal. This Churinga was 
cxidcntK' a ver)^ old one ; 
it was slightly broken at 
one end, and by constantly 
repeated rubbing the design 
was indistinct in parts. 
The workmanship of the 
considerable extent in its cjuality 


Churinga varies to a 


on some the lines are clearly cut, and, considering the hard- 
ness of the material and the crudity of the tool used, the 
result is surprisingly good so far as the regularity of the 
design is concerned ; but in all cases the design is a purely 
conventional one, and never attempts to indicate in form 
the specific object which it is supposed to represent, or 
rather to indicate. The most important feature is almost 
always indicated by a series of concentric circles or by spiral 
lines, while tracks of men and animals seem to be repre- 
sented by dots arranged in circular or straight lines. Indi- 
vidual men and women appear to be uniformly represented 
by semi-circular lines, and may be said, speaking generally, to 
be regarded as subordinate to the animal or plant indi- 
cated in the design by complete circles or spirals, though, as 
will be noted, the latter is not by any means of necessity the 
totem of the individual to whom the Churinga belongs. 
When dealing later on with the decorative art of the natives 
we shall refer further to these designs ; meanwhile it may be 
pointed out here that the concentric circles appear to have 
been derived from what was originally a spiral, and not vice 
versa. Whence the Central natives derived a st\-le of 
decoration of their sacred objects which is so entirely different 
from that of the tribes living both on the east coast and to the 
west of them, it is difficult to understand. One thing is 
certain, and that is that wherever they derived it from they 
have had it for long ages, as it is associated with their oldest 
traditions. The entirely different scheme of ornamentation 
found amongst the tribes of the eastern and south-eastern 
coasts, of the centre and of the west, points to the fact that 
these three large groups, each of which consists of many 
tribes, must have diverged from one another at an early date, 
and that each one has since pursued its own path of 
development practically uninfluenced by the others. In 
connection with this it may be noted that, though as yet but 
little is known concerning the West Australian natives, the 
initiation rites of the Eastern coastal tribes, whilst they agree 
in all important points amongst themselves, are markedly 
different from those of the Central tribes, including amongst 
these those of the internal parts of Queensland and New 


South Wales, in regard to certain of which we have recenth- 
had most valuable information published in the monograph 
by Mr. W. E. Roth, dealing in great detail with the north- 
west-central Queensland aborigines. The physical conditions 
of the continent have also been such as to shut off for probably 
long ages the Central tribes from those of either the eastern 
and south-eastern coastal districts, or those of the west. 

At the same time, though the initiation rites of the tribes 
.described by Mr. Roth are closely similar to those of the 
Central tribes, and though certain of the bull-roarers figure*d 
by him are identical in form and ornamentation with those 
of the latter, and are, as he describes, used in connection with 
initiation ceremonies and as love charms, and may not be 
seen by women, yet there does not appear to be the significance 
attached to them in the tribes studied b\- Mr. Roth that there 
is in the Central tribes. 

Various local groups differ to a great extent in the number 
of the Churinga in their possession, and amongst some, 
especially in the southern part of the tribe, stone ones may 
be absent, and onl}- wooden ones present. Wh>' this is so we 
cannot say ; the natives themselves simply say that originally 
all totem groups had stones ones, and that those which have 
not got them now have lost them ; but if this be so, it is not 
easy to understand why, as is actually the case, it is onl\' in 
the south that we meet with groups without an}- stone 
Churinga. A group without an)- of the stone ones is certainly 
regarded as inferior to a group which does possess them ; and 
possibly this absence of them in the south ma}' point back to 
a time when they were stolen. 

We now come to deal with the question of ownership of 
the Churinga. It will be seen from a consideration of the 
way in which each individual acquires his own totem name, 
that it is not at all improbable that every now and again 
a particular local group of some totem may become extinct. 
If no child happens for some length of time to be conceived 
in some particular totem localit}' — and some are very 
limited in extent — then there ma\' come a time when that 
particular group has no men or women representing it. 

Every local group is regarded as owning collective!}' the 


locality in which lies its Ertnatuhniga. The boundaries of 
this locality are well known, and if it happens that all the 
individuals associated with it die, then a neighbouring group 
will go in and possess the land. It is not, however, am- 
neighbouring group which may do this, but it must be one 
the members of which are what is called Nakrakia to the 
extinct group — that is, they belong to the same moiet}- of the 
tribe as the latter. For example, supposing the extinct 
group consisted mainly of Purula and Kumara men, then 
the new occupiers must be of the same sub-classes, and 
not Bukhara and Panunga. 

It is also clear that a group temporarih' extinct ma}- be 
resuscitated at any time, for the Churinga of the Alcheringa 
and their associated spirit individuals still inhabit the spot, 
so that no one knows when one of these ma}- enter a woman, 
and the once extinct group spring into human existence 

\\'hen any group becomes thus extinct, the Churinga are 
either taken care of by the new comers, or they may be 
handed over to some other local group of the same totem. 
Two instances which came under our notice will illustrate 
what actually takes place. In the first, all the members of a 
wild dog group, consisting mainly of Kumara and Purula men, 
died out ; a contiguous group of the same sub-classes, but of 
a different totem, took possession of the land, but carefull}- 
sent the Churinga from the ErtnaUdiinga to a distant group 
of wild dogs.^ In the second case, all the men of a lizard 
totem, situated some twelve miles to the north-east of Alice 
Springs, died out. They belonged to the Bulthara and 
Panunga moiety, and accordingly their locality was taken 
possession of by a neighbouring group of Bulthara and 
Panunga, who belonged to the Unchalka totem (a little grub), 
and in this instance these men also took care of the Churinga. 
leaving them undisturbed in the Ertnatnlunga, the old men 
periodicall}- examining them and rubbing them over with red 
ochre, so as to keep them in good state, just as if the}- were 

^ In another case a group of wild dogs became extinct, and at the present 
moment their Churinga are being taken care of in the Ertnatulunga of the 
witchetty grub group of Alice Springs. 


their own. After some time a child was conceived in the old 
lizard locality, and thus the local totemic i^roup was again 
brought to life, and the child — a bo\- — having reached mature 
age. was given charge of the Churinga which belonged to his 
totemic ancestors. The ceremony of handing over the 
Churinga which we witnessed took place during the Engwura 
and is described in connection with this. 

Whilst the Churinga are ahva^'S under the immediate 
charge of the Alatunja, or head man of the local totem group, 
various individuals are regarded as having a special proj^rietary 
right in certain Churinga. Ever}' one, in the first instance, 
has his own Churinga nanja, but in addition to this he most 
probably has others which have come to him b\- right of 
inheritance, the line of descent which the)' follow being 
strict!}' defined. Supposing a man dies, if he has a son of 
mature age, the latter — the eldest son, it there be more than 
one — is given charge of the dead man's Churinga. If he has 
no son of mature age, the\^ arc handed over to a }'(umger 
brother, never to an elder one, and the former will take care 
of them until such time as the son is old enough to be 
entrusted with the dut\- of periodically rubbing and polishing 
them. It must be underst(jod that they are alwa\'s under the 
control of the Alatunja, without whose consent the\' cannot 
be touched even b\' the man who has, under his direction, 
special charge of them. If there be no son, then the younger 
brother retains charge of them, and in course of time they 
descend to his son or younger brother, and so on from 
generation to generation. 

In the case of a woman's Churinga they do not descend to 
her son, but to a younger brother, if she has one. It never 
descends to an elder brother, and if she ha\e no younger 
brother-in-blood, then the men who stand in the relationship 
of Oknia (blood and tribal fathers) and Aniiiga (blood and 
tribal grandfathers) decide upon some man younger than 
herself, standing to her in the relationship <jf Witia — that is 
blood or tribal younger brother — and t(j him the charge of the 
Churinga is given. 

It will be seen that in the descent of the Churinga of men 
and women thc\' alwa\'s remain in the custod}' of a man 


belonging to the moiety of the tribe to which the individual 
belonged. If a woman's Churinga went to her son, then, as 
descent is counted in the paternal line, the}- would pass into 
the possession of a man belonging to the moiety to which she 
did not belong. 

The question of totem does not enter into consideration in 
regard to the descent of the Churinga, and the fact that this 
is so accounts for what was at first a matter of considerable 
perplexity to us. Whilst the Churinga during the Engwura 
were, as frequently happened, brought on to the ceremonial 
ground to be examined and rubbed over with red ochre, 
a man would show us perhaps as many as twent\- belonging 
to various totems, and in which it was evident that he had a 
special proprietary right. He would speak of them as 
belonging to him, though the great majorit}- were Churinga of 
totems other than his own, and it was only after inquiry into 
a number of special cases that we came to understand how 
the Churinga of dead men and women were inherited by 
particular individuals. A man, for example, would tell us that 
such and such Churinga in the store lying in front of us had 
belonged to his Oknia, and that when the latter died then 
they came to him. Now a man calls his actual father Oknia, 
and also his father's brothers, and a man may inherit, as we 
have already seen, Churinga which belonged to his o^\'n 
father and to the elder brothers of the latter. As we fourid 
frequently, you cannot tell, without further inquiry, whether a 
particular Churinga belonged to a man's actual father or to an 
elder brother of his father. 

A man may thus inherit (i) the Churinga which belonged 
to his own father — that is, not only his father's Churinga 
7ianja, but any which have descended to him by right of 
inheritance ; (2) the Churinga which belonged to an elder 
brother who has died, leaving no son to inherit them ; and 
(3) the CJiiiringa nanja of an elder (but not of a younger) 
sister. Not only does he inherit these Churinga, but at the 
same time, and along with them, he also inherits certain 
sacred ceremonies which belonged to the Alcheringa in- 
dividuals who are represented by the Churinga — a matter 
to which we shall have to acain refer when we are deal- 


ing with the Ouabara or ceremonies concerned with the 

In addition to these which have alread)- been dealt with, 
and all of which belong — so far as their shape is concerned — to 
the t\'pe of object popularly called a bull-roarer, there are 
other objects which are equally called Churinga, but both the 
external form as well as the significance of which renders 
them quite distinct from the former. The one point in which 
all the various articles agree, to which the name of Chu- 
ringa is applied, is this — they are all in some way associated 
with individual men, women, plants, or animals of the 
Alcheringa, and at the present da}- are strictl)' tabu to women. 
Thus, for example, at Undiara, the great centre of the Okira 
(kangarooj totem, there lies buried beneath the ground a slab 
of stone, triangular in section and about three feet in length, 
which represents part of the tail of a celebrated kangaroo 
which was killed there in the Alcheringa, and has ever since 
remained in the form of this stone, which is Churinga, and 
onl}' to be seen by initiated men during the performance of 
certain totemic ceremonies. Again, in the witchetty grub 
totem each man has associated with himself, in addition to 
the usual Churinga, a few small rounded stones called 
CImringa Jinc/iima. Each of these is usually about an inch 
in diameter, and represents one of the eggs w ith which the 
bodies of the Alcheringa individuals were filled. Large 
numbers of these were deposited at various camping 
places of the Alcheringa witchetty ancestors, the greater 
number being left at the central camp in the Emily Gorge 
near to the present site of Alice Springs. The spirit 
individual carries a certain number of these about with him 
as well as his usual Churinga, and deposits them around the 
base of his Nauja tree, where they ma\' be found after the 
birth of the child to which he gives rise. Usually the older 
witchettN* men carry a small number of these about with 
them, and when a man is dying a few of them are always 
placed under his head, being brought from the Ertnatulunga 
for this special jjurpose, if he does not happen to have any 
in his possession, and after death they are buried with him. 
Of the origin and meaning of this particular custom the 


natives have no idea, and this was the only occasion on 
which we could discover that anything of a sacred nature was 
buried with the men. This of course applies to men of the 
witchett}' grub totem, but it is quite possible that in other 
totems there may be somewhat similar objects present, though 
we have not been able to learn of the existence of any 
amongst the representatives of a large number of totems with 
whom we have come into contact. 

Stones which are evidently Churinga are met with amongst 
other Central Australian tribes. In the Ilpirra and Luritcha 
we can say from personal knowledge that their use and 
meaning is precisely similar to that already described amongst 
the Arunta. In the case of the Kaitish and Warramunga 
tribes, which are located further to the north, the Churinga 
are distinct in shape from those of the Arunta. Each 
consists of a flat, micaceous slab, which in outline is character- 
istically pear-shaped, with always a small lump of resin 
affixed to the narrow end. The stone may either be quite 
plain, or ornamented with designs similar to those of the 
Arunta Churinga, or, again, in the Kaitish tribe it may be 
decorated with a design painted on with charcoal and pipe- 
clay, the stone itself having been previously coloured red 
with ochre. Those in our possession are enclosed in a 
covering of emu feathers, both to preserve them from getting 
chipped and to prevent their being seen by the women 
(Fig. 21). 

Amongst the W'aagai, both flat and somewhat spherical 
shaped stones are known, the latter 1 ooking much like one 
of the Churinga n?ichiina of the witchetty men. The flattened 
stone (Fig. 22) has, unlike the Churinga of the Arunta or 
Ilpirra, its edge marked with very definite serrations ; the 
incised design consists of concentric circles, while at one 
end a hole is bored, to which a strand of hair string is 

There can be little doubt but that the same essential idea 
underlies the Churinga in all these tribes. \\'e have traced 
through them all the same system of social organisation, 
with descent counted in the paternal line, together with 
corresponding terms of relationship, and, judging by the 



nature of their Churinga,^ it seems highly probable that the 
same, or at least essentially the same, totemic system exists 
amongst the W'aagai, Kaitish and Warramunga as we know 
to exist among the Arunta, Luritcha and Ilpirra tribes. 


In the Urabunna tribe the equivalent of the sacred stick of 
the Arunta is called Chimbaliri, and has the form of a plain 
piece of wood with each end rounded, so that it has the 
general- form of a wooden Churinga. It differs from the latter 
in being very distinctly concavo-convex in section, in having 
no incised pattern, and in not being red-ochred. The one 
figured (Fig. 20) measures d"] cm. in length and 9 cm. in 
width. After the initiation ceremon)' a Chimbaliri is given 
to the }'outh to carrx- about until the wound is healed. 

W'e have previously stated that one group will occasionally 
lend Churinga to a neighbouring and friendly group as a ver\- 
special mark of good-will. It is somewhat difficult to find 
out the idea which is pre.sent in the native mind with respect 
to the lending and borrowing of Churinga beyond the fact 
that it is univcrsall)' regarded as a most desirable thing to 
have possession of as large a number as possible, 

' It must be renieniljcred that llic term Churinga which \vc is the Arunla 
term for tliese sacred ol)jects. 


with them the spiritual part of their former possessors is 
associated. So far as we can find out, the}' are not borrowed 
or lent for any very definite purpose, but only because, on the 
one hand, a particular group is anxious to have in its 
possession for a time a large number, with the general 
idea that it will in some vague and undefined way bring 
them good fortune, and, on the other hand, the second 
group is willing to lend them, and thus show a kind- 
ness which at the same time reflects a certain amount of 
dignity upon itself owing to the very fact that it has a large 
number to lend. Beyond this there is the important item 
from the point of view of the lenders that the borrowing group 
is always supposed to make presents to the former on the 
occasion of returning the Churinga. 

It is not necessary for the two groups concerned to belong 
to the same totem — they may or they may not. 

The following is an account of what actualh* took place, 
when, two or three }'ears ago, an Erlia, or emu totem, group, 
living in the Strangway Range, lent some of its Churinga to 
another Erlia group which lives about twelve miles to the 
east of Alice Springs. These Churinga have only recently 
been returned, and the ceremonies enacted at both the 
borrowing and returning will serve to show what takes place 
on these occasions, though in various parts of the tribe and in 
the case of different totems there are, of course, differences in 

The Alatunja or headman of the group which is anxious 
to borrow the Churinga sends a properly accredited messenger 
to the Alatunja of the group from which it is desired 
to borrow them. This messenger, who is called Inzviirra, 
carries with him as his credentials a few Churinga, perhaps 
three or four, and the}' are usually stone ones. When he 
reaches the country of the strange group, he remains at some 
little distance from the main camp, the fact of his acting as a 
messenger being known at once from his behaviour. After 
some little time, during which he is left entirely to himself, as 
is usual on the approach of a stranger to a camp, the 
Alatunja and some of the older men go out to the spot at 
which he has remained seated since his approach. He then, 


in a whisper, asks the Alatunja to take care of the few 
Churinga which he has brought with him and to keep them 
safe for the group which he represents. Nothing whatever is 
said on either side as to the real object of his visit, but what 
this is is at once known from the fact of liis asking the 
Alatunja to take care of his Churinga. If the Alatunja in 
whose hands, after consultation with the older men, the matter 
lies, does not feel disposed to lend Churinga, he politely 
declines to keep the Iniviu-ra's offering, and the messenger at 
once returns to his own group, carrying his Churinga with him. 
In this particular case the Alatunja accepted the Churinga, 
thereb}' impl}'ing that he was willing to lend a larger number 
in return, though no words to that effect passed on either 
side, and the messenger at once went back and reported the 
success of his mission. As soon as he had returned, the 
Alatunja of the borrowing group organised a deputation, 
which, headed by himself, went across to the Strangway 
Range group of emu men. 

When the party came within a distance of about half a mile 
of the main camp, a halt was ordered by the Alatunja, and a 
messenger was sent on to announce the advent of the party. 
Presently the Alatunja of the local group and some of the 
older men, as usual, came out to the halting-place and sat 
down in perfect silence. After a short time the)- embraced 
the visitors ; and during the next two or three hours the 
embracing was repeated at intervals, conversation with regard 
to the Churinga being carried on in whispers. As a general 
rule there are upon these deinitations one or two of the more 
recently initiated men who are being graduall)' inducted into 
such ceremonies, but are not, as yet, allowed to see ever\thing 
which takes place. For example, though they come with the 
others, the}- will not be shown the stone Churinga, at least not 
close to, as this is the first important mission with which they 
have been associated. 

As usual on such occasions, the deputation had arrived 
about mid-da\'. Until sunset the men remained at the 
meeting-place, and then, when it had grown dark, they were 
conducted by their hosts to the ordinary corrobboree ground, 
where a performance was given in their honour. On such oc- 


casions it is esteemed a polite attention to guests to per- 
form a part of an AltJierta or ordinary corrobboree, belong- 
ing to the district from which the visitors come, and in 
which one or two of the latter are usually asked to take 

When the dancing was over the visitors were conducted to 
the camp of the single men, where the night was spent. The 
performance lasted several days, while the visitors remained 
as guests in the camp. At its termination, and when all the 
women had been sent away from the corrobboree ground, 
the local Alatunja, accompanied by some of the older men, 
went to the Ertiiatulnnga, or sacred store-house, and, choosing 
out the Churinga to be lent, returned with them to the ground 
where the visitors had remained. During the night the 
Churinga were carefully inspected, greased, rubbed with red 
ochre, and stacked in an elaborately decorated shield. At 
daylight they were solemnly handed over to the visiting 
Alatunja, the lender saying in low tones, " Keep the Churinga 
safely, they are of the Alcheringa ; we lend them to you freely, 
gladly ; do not be in a hurry to return them." While he was 
saying this, the older men murmured approvingly ; the young 
men present who had only recenth' been initiated had been 
.sent some little distance away. Then the leader of the 
deputation replied, speaking in low tones, and supported by 
the fervent " AiLatta, aiiatta " (" Yes, yes ") of his colleagues on 
the deputation. He said, " W^e will watch over them with 
care, and return them to you after some time ; the emu Chur- 
inga are good, the emu men are strong and good." After a 
further conversation in whispers, during which the virtues of 
the Churinga were dilated upon, the deputation departed, 
waving spears and shouting loudly, " Uivai I Uzval ! Uiuai ! " 
— an exclamation used to denote fear or danger, or to frighten 
women and children, who, when they hear it, will quickly 
make off out of the way. 

The return journey was made by the least frequented path, 
so as to avoid as far as possible any chance of meeting 
women. On arrival in camp, the Churinga were carefully 
examined by the old men, and then hidden away amongst 
their own in the Evtnatuluuga. There then followed a cor- 



robboree, in which those who took part introduced a Stran<^- 
wa}- Range performance. 

After rather more than two \-ear.s had elapsed, the Churinga 
were returned. It is usual for this to take place within the 
area occujDied b}' the lending group, but on this particular 
occasion it was arranged that the ceremon}- should take 
place at a spot on the Todd River, just within the district of 
the borrowing group. 

To this spot accordingly came the Alatunja of the Strang- 
way Range group, attended by his men. While camped 
here and awaiting the coming of the part\- returning the 
Churinga, various ceremonies concerned with the emu totem 
were performed at night-time, in the centre of a large space 
which had been spccialh- cleared for the purpose. 

On the da}' on which the deimlation was to come in, the 
men assembled here, all painted with charcoal and birds' 
down in front, and with designs on their backs copied from 
the Churinga Ilkiiiia, or designs peculiar to the totem. 
About half an hour before the main deputation reached the 
spot, a single ^'^messcnger arrived and, approaching the 
.Alatunja with an air of great deference, told him that the 
Jnwitrra bearing the sacred Churinga were close at hand. 
Two shields were placed on the ground in front of the 
.Alatunja, who sat down in the native fashion, with his legs 
bent up under him, so that his knees projected towards the 
shields. All the other men with him, between fort}' and 
fift}' in number, sat down, forming a solid square, the front 
row of which was occupied b}' the elder men, with the .Alatunja 
in the middle. A little to the right of him was a shield, on 
which had been placed a flat cake called ekulla made from 
crushed grass seeds, and on the top of this were jDlaced a 
number of freshl}'-made Itnitiiya, or fur string head bands. 
A few yards distant, on cither side of the square, a man was 
stationed, sitting on the ground, and each of these men alter- 
natel}' struck the ground heavily with a hard flat piece of 
wood, while those within the square, led b}'^ the Alatunja, 
sang with great gusto, the sidesmen continuing to beat time 
upon the ground, until, at length, the hi'viin-a emerged into 
the pathwa}' which had jireviousl}- been prepared for them 


M 2 


to traverse b}' clearing awa}' the stones, bushes, and tussocks 
of grass. 

As soon as the}' came in sight of the waiting men they at 
once halted, shouting loudK-, " C'.cai, Uwai ! " and brandishing 
their weapons, the man who carried the bundle of Churinga 
being well in front of the column. The men of the waiting 
group at once stopped singing, and shouted excitedly, " Erlia ! 
Erlia !" — the native name of their totem, the emu. After a 
short halt, the I)i:c/irra party came on at a trot, w ith the 
curious high knee action alwaj-s adopted by the natives when 
engaged in performing ceremonies. Spears and boomerangs 
were waved about, amid shouts of " Uzvai ! Uicdi I " and 
answering cries of "■ Erlia, Erlia ! " The leading old man, who 
carried the Churinga, imitated, as he came along, the action 
and characteristic zig-zag course of a running emu, the bundle 
of Churinga, which was held at an angle above his head, 
giving him, indeed, somewhat the ajipearance of the animal. 

At this time, those who were seated in the scjuare began to 
sing, except only the old Alatunja, whose head was bent low 
down, as if he were too much overcome with emotion to take 
any part in the singing. 

When the strangers had reached the waiting group, the 
Churinga were placed on one of the shields, the singing 
ceased, and the new-comers sat down so that they formed 
a second square immediately facing the other one. The old 
men occupied the front row, with the Alatunja in the centre 
of it. 

After a short pause, the leader of the Imvurra bent over 
and whispered in the ear of the Alatunja, every one mean- 
while assuming a strikingly grave demeanour, as if something 
of the greatest importance were taking place. Then all, 
except the two leaders, joined in a short chant and when it 
was oN'er, the leader of the hnviirra and otiicr old men of liis 
party took u[) the bundle of Churinga and deposited it on 
the lajj (jf the Alatunja, who took it up, rubbed it several 
times against his stomach and thighs, and then against those 
of the older men who were sitting beside him. The object 
of this rubbing is, so the natives say, to untie their b<jwels, 
which become tightened and tied up in knots as a result of 


the emotion felt when they once more see their Churinga. 
The latter were then placed on the lap of the leader of the 
Imvuna, and then the Alatunja sitting immediately opposite 
to him, as well as the old men on each side of him, leaned 
across and rubbed their foreheads against the stomachs of 
the front row of the hiwurra part}*. This was done to show 
that the}' were friends, and were not angr\' with the visitors 
because they had kept the Churinga for such a long time. 

The leader of the Inwurra party now began to unwind the 
Imitnya, which were quite newly made of opossum fur, and 
in which the Churinga were swathed, forming altogether a 
torpedo-shaped bundle about four feet in length. Ever\- now 
and then they paused and repeated the rubbing of the stom- 
achs with their foreheads, until, finally, when the Imitnya 
and a number of Uliara, or human hair girdles, lying under 
them, had all been removed, the Churinga were displayed. 
Then, one b}- one, they were handed over to the Alatunja, 
who carefully examined each one, and rubbed it over his 
stomach and thighs, and over those of the men of his 
group, and then placed it on one of the shields in front 
of him. 

This performance occupied a considerable time, and it was 
conducted with great solemnity. Then the leader of the 
Inwurra addressed the Alatunja and his men, saying in effect, 
"■ We return your great Churinga, which have made us glad. 
We bring you a present of these Imitnya and Uiiara, and we 
are sorry that we could not bring more, but the Anthinna 
(opossum) is scarce and hair does not grow quickly." This 
was somewhat modest, as there must ha\e been, at the least, 
fifty large new Imitnya or opossum fur-string bands, besides 
a great number of Uiiara. 

The Alatunja replied, " It is good, \-es, we are glad you 
kept our Churinga so well ; they are all here. We accept 
your present and offer \'ou these Imitnya in return ; we are 
sorry we cannot give }ou more." Then he handed the 
Imitnya, about fifteen in number, which were placed on one 
of the shields, to the leader of the Inzvnrra, and taking up the 
ekulla or cake of grass seed, he divided it into two with a 
Churinga, and, giving one half each to the leader and another 


old man of the latter's party, said, *' Eat, feed j-our men with 
our ekiilla." 

After the old men of the local party had spent a long time 
in carefully examining the Churinga, the ceremony came to 
an end, and the Alatunja told the old men, in \vhisj)ers, that 
he was about to perform the ceremony of Inticliiujiia of the 
emu totem. This is not, however, of necessity performed 
when the Churinga are returned, and is described in the 
chapter dealing with the Intichiinua ceremonies of \arious 



Object of the ceremonies — No absolute restriction with regard to eating the totem — 
Eating of totem obUgatorj' on certain occasions — Restriction with regard to 
eating of the wild cat — The disease Erkincha — Individuals who may attend 
the ceremonies — Time of holding of the ceremonies — Intichiiima of the Udnir- 
ringita or Witchetty grubs — Ceremony of eating and distributing the Udnir- 
ringita after the Intichiuma — Intichiiima of the Erlia or Emu — Intichiiima ot 
the L'njiamba or Hakea — Intichiiima of the Ilpirla or Manna — Intichiiima of 
the Varumpa or Honey-ant— Intichiiima of the Quatcha or Water — Undiara — • 
Description of the spot — Cave containing the Nanja stone of a Kangaroo animal 
— Different position held by women at the present day in comparison with that 
held in the past — Traditions concerned with Undiara — Historj- of Ungutnika 
and his boils — Ungutnika pursued by the wild dogs — Reconstitutes himself, but 
is finally killed and his tail buried near to Undiara — The Kangaroo and the 
Okira men — An Arunga or Euro man changes himself into a Kangaroo man 
and pursues the Kangaroo — Arrival at Undiara and killing of the Kangaroo ; 
the ceremonial stone arising to mark the place where its body was deposited 
in the cave — Intichiiima of the Okira totem — Relationship between the in- 
dividual and his totem — An Arunga man making a Churinga of his totem to 
assist a Plum Tree man in catching Arunga — Ceremonies concerned with 
eating the totem after In'ichiiima — Traditions referring to the eating of the 
totemic animal or plant. 

The name hitichimna is applied to certain sacred ceremonies 
associated with the totems, and the object of which is to 
secure the increase of the animal or plant which gi\"es its 
name to the totem. These ceremonies are perhaps the most 
important of an}-, and it does not seem possible to discover 
when and how they arose. The nati\es have no tradition 
which deals with their origin. 

In connection with them we may note an interesting 
feature with regard to the relationship existing between an 
individual of the Arunta and other tribes in the centre of 
the continent and his totemic animal or plant. We find 
amone^t these tribes no restriction according to which a man 


is forbidden to eat his totem, as is stated to be the case 
amongst certain other Austrahan tribes. On the other hand, 
though he ma\- onl\- under ordinarj- circumstances eat very 
sparing!}- of it. there are certain special occasions on which he 
is, we ma)- sa\-, obHged b\' custom to eat a small portion of it 
or otherwise the supph" would fail. These occasions are 
those on which the lutichiuina ceremonies ncnv to be described 
are performed. I""urt!ier still, the lead in the ceremon\- must be 
taken b\' the Alatunja, and when we asked the Alatunja of the 
witchett)- grub totem win- he ate his totem, which is al\va}-s 
regarded b)- the natixe as just the same as himself, the repl)' 
was that unless he did eat a little, he would not be able to 
perform properly the ceremoii)- of Iiitichiunia. 

There is howexer one notable e.xcejition to the restrictions 
upon eating, and this is concerned with the Achilpa or wild 
cat ' totem. Onl\- a \er\- little of this is allowed to be eaten, 
and that onl\- b_\- the old people; but in this case the restriction 
is n<jt confined to the members of the totem, but is of universal 
application, appl)-ing to e\er}- member of the tribe. There is 
no similar restriction appl}'ing to an)- other animal or plant, 
but, in the case of Achilpa, there are reasons given for not 
eating it which serve to show that for some cause or other 
this particular animal has associations with the tribe as a 
whole which do not exist in respect of an)- other. In the 
first place, it is supposed that any one, save an old man or 
woman, eating Achilpa would be afflicted w ith a special disease 
called llrkiiicha ; and in the second, it is belie\ed that if an)- 
man who had killed another at an)- time of his life were to 
eat this particular animal, then his s])iril part or Yoika- would 
leave his bod)- and he would soon be killed b)' some eneni)-, 
so that to a man who has ever killed another — and there are 
\cr)- {c\\ men who do not la)- claim to this distinction — the 
Achilpa is tabu or forbidden for life, no matter what be his 
age. There are amongst the traditions dealing with the 
Achilpa of tlu- .\lcheringa. \er)- explicit references to the 
Erkinclin flisease. though w h\- this should be especial!)- 

' This is Dafyiinis s^cojfroyi. 

- A man'.s spirit when he is .ilixc i> called Ycuka : when dead lii> s|)iiil pari is 
called Ulthatia. 


associated with the Achilpa people it is difficult to say, and 
the natives have no explanation to offer.^ 

We may now describe the ceremonies of Intichiiima as 
they are performed in the case of certain of the totems. Each 
totem has its own ceremony and no two of them are alike ; but 
though the}- differ to a very great extent so far as the actual 
performance is concerned, the important point is that one and 
all have for their sole object the purpose of increasing the \^ 
number of the animal or plant after which the totem is called ; 
and thus, taking the tribe as a whole, the object of these . 
ceremonies is that of increasing the total food supply. To 
this question we shall have to return, as in connection with it 
there are certain points of very considerable interest. 

Every local totemic group has its own InticJiiiuna ceremony, 
and each one is held at a time decided upon by the Alatunja 
under whose direction it is carried out. Any man who is a 
member of the totem can attend irrespective of the class to 
which he belongs, though, as we have already pointed out, the 
great majorit}- of the members of any local group belong to 
one moiety of the tribe. In some cases men who are in the 
camp at the time when the ceremony is to be performed, and 
who belong to the right moiety of the tribe, are invited b}' 
the Alatunja to be present ; but this is rather an exceptional 
thing, and under no circumstances are men who belong neither 
to the totem nor to the right moiety allowed to be present. 

In connection with the times at which the ceremonies are 
held, it may be said that while the exact time is fixed b\' the 
Alatunja in each case, yet the matter is largely dependent 
on the nature of the season. The LnticJihiuia are closel}- 

' If we were to hazard a suggestion in the attempt to explain the origin of the 
restriction, it would lie along the following lines. The Achilpa, as shown in the 
traditions of the tribe, may very probably be looked upon as a powerful group of 
individuals who at some past time marched over the country. Possibly they 
brought with them the disease, at least it is suggestive in this respect that tradition 
refers the disease to them and to the members of no other totem and, as com- 
munication with the individuals of the totem resulted in the spread of the disease, 
so the idea of danger associated with any connection with it not unnaturally ex- 
tended from the human Achilpa to the animal itself, and thus the latter became 
tabu. It may also be noticed that Erkincha is prevalent amongst young and not 
amongst old people, and that this is parallel with the tabu not applying strictly to 
old men and women. 


associated with the breeding of the animals and the flowering 
of the plants w ith which each totem is respectively identified, 
and as the object of the ceremony is to increase the number of 
the totemic animal or plant, it is most naturall)' held at a 
certain season. In Central Australia the seasons are limited, 
so far as the breeding of animals and the flowering of plants is 
concerned, to two — a dry one of uncertain and often great 
length, and a rainy one of short duration and often of irregular 
occurrence. The latter is followed by an increase in animal 
life and an exuberance of plant growth which, almost suddenh'. 
transforms what may have been a sterile waste into a land 
rich in various forms of animals, none of which have been seen 
for it may be many months before, and ga)- with the blossoms 
of endless flowering plants. 

In the case of many of the totems it is just when there is 
promise of the approach of a good season that it is customar)- 
to hold the ceremony. While this is so, it sometimes happens 
that the members of a totem, such as, for example, the rain or 
water totem, will hold their InticliiuDia when there has been a 
long drought and water is badly wanted ; if rain follows within 
a reasonable time, then of course it is due to the influence of 
the Intichiuina ; if it docs not, then the non-success is at once 
attributed to the evil and counter influence of some, usuall)', 
distant group of men. With the meaning of the ceremonies 
we shall deal later on ; meanwhile it may be said here that 
their performance is not associated in the native mind with 
the idea of aj^pealing to the assistance of any supernatural 


When the cercmcjny is to be peformed at Alice Springs the 
men assemble in the main camp, and then those who are about 
to take part in the proceedings leave the camp quietly, slink- 
ing away to a meeting place not far off, the women and men 
who do not belong to the totem not being supposed to know- 
that they are gone. .\ few, perhaps two or three, of the older 
men (jf the totem stay in camji, and next morning they ask 



the men who do not belong to the totem to return early from 
their hunting. Every man has left all his weapons in the 
camp, for all must go quite unarmed and without any 
decoration of any kind ; even the hair girdle, the one constant 
article of clothing worn by the men, must be left in camp. 
They all w alk in single file except the Alatunja, who sometimes 
takes the lead and at others walks by the side of the column to 
see that the line is kept. On no account must any of the 


men, except the very old ones, eat any kind of food until the 
whole ceremony is over ; anything which ma\- be caught in the 
way of game has to be handed over to the old men. The 
procession usually starts late in the afternoon, so that it is 
dusk by the time that a special camping ground near to 
the Emily Gap is reached, and here they lie down for the 

At daylight the party begins to pluck twigs from the gum 
trees at the mouth of the Gap, and every man carries a twig in 


each hand except the Alatunja. \vho carries nothing save a 
small pitchi or wooden trout^di, which is called Apuiara} 
Walking again in single file the)' follow — led b\- the Alatunja 
— the path traversed b)- the celebrated Intwailiuka, the great 
leader of the Witchett)- grubs in the Alcheringa, until the\- 
come to what is called the Iltluira okuira, which is placed 
high up on the western wall of the Gap. In this, which is a 
shallow ca\-e, a large block of quartzite lies, and around it are 
some small rounded stones. The large mass represents the 
JMacgica, that is, the adult animal. The Alatunja begins 
singing and taps the stone with his Apmara, while all the 
other men tap it w ith their twigs, chanting songs as the\' do 
so, the burden of which is an in\itation to the animal to 
la)' eggs. When this has gone on for a short time the)- tap 
the smaller stones, which are Cliuringa 7incliiuia, that is, the)- 
represent the eggs of the Maegiva. The Alatunja then takes up 
one of the smaller stones and strikes each man in the stomach 
with it, saying, " Unga imirna oknirra ulquiima " (" Vou have 
eaten much food "). When this has been done the stone is 
dropped and the Alatunja strikes the stomach of each man with 
his forehead, an operation which is called atnitta ulpilima. 
Leaving the Iltluira the men descend from the range to the 
bed of the creek in the Gap, and stop under the rock called 
Alknalinta, that is, the decorated e)'es, where, in the 
Alcheringa, Intwailiuka used to cook, and eat the 
grub. The Alatunja strikes the rock with his Apmara, and 
each man does the .same with his tw igs, while the older men 
again chant invitations to the animal to come from all 
directions and lay eggs. At the base of the rock, buried 
deepl)' in the sand, there is supposed td be a ver)- large 
Maegii'a stone. 

It was at this spot that Intwailiuka used to stand while I'.e 
threw u|) the face of the rock numbers of CIniriuga nucJiima^ 
which rolled down again to his feet ; accordingl)- the Alatunja 
does the same with some of the ChuriuLra which lia\e been 

' This is not especially made for the purpose, luit is an ordinary small pilehiy 
such as the women use for scooping the earth out of burrows, and is always pro- 
vided by a daughter of the Alatunja. 




brought from the store-house close by. While he is doing 
this the other members of the party run up and down the 
face of the rocky ledge, singing all the time. The stones roll 
down into the bed of the creek and are carefully gathered 
together and replaced in the store. 

The men now fall once more into single file and march in 
silence to the nearest IltJnira, which is about a mile and a half 
away from the Gap in the direction of Alice Springs. The 


Alatunja goes into the hole, which is four or five feet deep, 
and scoops out with his Apmara any dirt which ma}- have 
accumulated in it, singing as he does so a low monotonous 
chant about the Uchaqiia. Soon he lays bare two stones 
which have been carefully covered up in the base of the hole ; 
the larger one is called Clint'inga uc/iaqiia, and represents 
the chrysalis stage from which emerges the adult animal ; the 
smaller is one of the Cluiringa unchiina or Q%%. W lien they 
are exposed to view, songs referring to the Ucltaqna are sung, 




and the stones are solemnl\' handled and cleaned w ith the 
palm of the hand. One b}' one the men now go into the 
Iltliura, and the Alatunja, lifting up the Cliuriuga ncliaqua, 
strikes the stomach of each man with it, saying again, " \'ou 
have eaten much food." Finall}-, dropping the stone, he butts 
(this is the onl)- word e.xpressive of tlie action at each man 
in the abdomen with his forehead. 

There are altogether some ten of these Ilthura, in each 
one of which is a Clinri)tga uchaijua, and each lltlnira is 

26. — kriJiiINc; TIIF. STOM.\Cll Willi IllK ( lUKINC.A l<H.\<jrA Dl'KINc; 

visited in turn b\- the j)art\- and the same ceremon\' is 

When the round of tlie Ilthura has bi-en made and the same 
ceremoiu' enacted at each one, then a start is made for the 
home camp. When within a mile or .so of the latter they stoj) 
and decorate themseheswith material which has been purposel>- 
brought to the spot. Hair string is tied round tlieir heads, 


17 = 

and Chilara or forehead bands are put on, beneath which 
twigs of the Udnirriiiga^ bush are fixed so that they hang 
downwards. Nose bones are thrust through the nasal sep- 
tum, and rat tails and topknots of cockatoo feathers are 
worn in the hair. The Alatunja is but httle decorated ; he has 
only the Chilara across his forehead, and the Lalkira or 
nose bone. Under his arm he carries the Apviara, and in his 
hand a twig of the Udiiirringa bush. While the men walk 
along the}' keep their twigs in constant motion, much as if 


they were brushing off flies. The totem Ilkinia or sacred 
design is painted on the body of each man with red ochre 
and pipe clay, and the latter is also used to paint the face, 
except for the median line of red. When the decorations are 
complete a start is again made, all walking in single file, the 
Alatunja at the head with his Apiiiam under his arm. Every 

' The lutemic animal takes its name fruni this sliruh, on which the gruh feeds. 


now and then they stop and the old Alatunja, placing his 
hand above his e)'es, as if to shade the latter, strikes an 
attitude as he peers away into the distance. He is supposed 
to be looking out for the women who were left in camp. The 
old man, who had been left in charge at the camp during 
the absence of the part)', is also on the look-out for the return 
of the latter. While the men have been away he has built, 
away from the main camp, a long, narrow wurley, which is 
called Uvibana, and is intended to represent the chr)'salis from which the Maegzua or fully-developed insect 
emerges. Near to this spot all those who have not been 
taking part in the ceremony assemble, standing behind the 
Uinbana. Those men who belong to the other moiet}' of the 
tribe — that is, to the Purula and the Kumara — are about forty 
or fifty yards away, sitting down in perfect silence ; and the 
same distance further back the Panunga and Bukhara women 
are standing, with the Purula and Kumara women sitting down 
amongst them. The first-named women are painted with the 
totem Ilkinia of red and white lines ; the .second are painted 
with lines of white faintly tinged with red. When the old 
man at length sees the jjart}' approacliing he steps out and 
sings — 

" IlUiia piini; kwai, Wialaii ni nai, \'ii mulk la, Xaan tai yaa lai." 

The Alatunja, as the party comes slowly along, stops every 
now and then to peer at the women. P^inalh' all reach the 
Uuibana and enter it. When all are inside they begin to sing 
of the animal in its \arious stages, and of the Alknalinta 
stone and the great Maegiva at it base. As soon as the 
performers enter the wurley, the Purula and Kumara men 
and women lie face downwards, and in this position they 
must remain until the\' receive permission to arise. They 
are not allowed to stir imder any jjretext whatever. The 
singing continues for some time ; then the Alatunja in a 
.squatting position shuffles out of the Uinbana, gliding slowly 
along over the space in front, which has been cleared for a 
distance of some )'ards. Me is foUcjwed by all the men, who 
sing of the emerging of the Maegiva from its case, the 
Unibann. Slowly they shuffle out and back again until all 




are once more in the wurley, when the singing ceases and 
food and water are brought to them by the old man who had 
remained in camp and built the Uuibana. This, it must be 
remembered, is the first food or drink which they have par- 
taken of since they originally left the camp, as, except in the 


case of the very old men, it is peremptory that the ceremony be 
carried out without any eating or drinking on the part of the 
participants. When it is dusk they leave the wurley, and go 
round to the side away from that on which the Purula and 
Kumara men are lying, so that, to a certain extent, the}' are 



hidden from their view. A lars:^e fire is h'ghted, and round this 
they sit, singing of the witchett}- grub. This is kej^t up till 
some little time before daybreak, and during all that time the 
women of the right moiety must stand peering about into the 
darkness to see if thewomcnof the other moiety, overwhom they 
are supposed to keep watch, continue to lie down. The\- also 
peer about, watching the LiticJiiuiiia party just as the women 
did in the Alcheringa. Suddenly the singing ceases, and the 
fire is ciuickU' put out b)- the Alatunja. This is the signal for 
the release of the Purula and Kumara men and women, who 
jump to their feet, and these men and all the women of what- 
ever class they ma}'' be, at once run away to the main camp. 
The LiticJiiuma party remains at the wurley until dajdight, 
when the men go near to the Uiigiiiija} make a fire and strip 
themselves of all their ornaments, throwing away their 
Udnirriiiga twigs. When all the lliara, Iniitnya, Lalkira 
and cockatoo feathers are removed, the Alatunja says, " Our 
Intidiinma is finished, the Miilyi^nuka must have these things 
or else our InticJiiiuna would not be successful, and some 
harm would come to us." They all say, " Yes, yes, certainly ; " 
and the Alatunja calls to the Miilyanuka {i.e. men of the 
other moiety of the tribe), who are at the Ungiuija, that 
is the men's camp, to come up, and the things are divided 
amongst them, after which the old man, who before brought 
them food, goes to the various camps and collects a con- 
siderable quantity of vegetable food which is given to him 
by the women. This is brought back and cooked and 
eaten by the fire, where they still remain. During the after- 
noon the old man again visits the camp, and brings back with 
him some red ochre and the fur string which belongs to the 
various members of the party, and, just before sundown, the 
old men rub red ochre over their bodies, and over those of the 
younger men, thus obliterating the Ilkinia and the painting 
on the face. The men then put on their arm strings, &c., and 
return to their resjiective camps, and with this the main part 
of the ceremony is brought to a When all is over, the 

' The Uttgiiuja is a special part of the main camp where the men a.sseniblc, and 
near to which no woman may go. In the same way the women have their special 
jmrt, called Erlukwina, near to which no man may go. 


Apmara ox pitcJii of the Alatunja is held in great regard, and 
the Panunga and Bukhara women enjo\' the privilege, each 
in turn, of carrying it about. 


The InticJiiiuna of the Erlia or emu group of Strangway 
Range, differs very considerably from the ceremony which 
has just been described, and it must be remembered that 
there are considerable differences in detail between the 1/ 
Intichiiuna ceremonies of even the different local groups of 
the same totem. 

We have already described the returning of the emu 
Churinga to the Strangway Range men by the members of 
another group to which they had been lent, and the following 
ceremony was performed upon this occasion. As is always the 
case, the decision to hold the InticJiiuma was arrived at by 
the Alatunja. He and a few other men, amongst whom were 
his two sons, first of all cleared a small level plot of ground, ^y 
sweeping aside all stones, tussocks of grass and small bushes, 
so as to make it as smooth as possible. Then several of the 
men, the Alatunja and his two sons amongst them, each 
opened a vein in their arms, and allowed the blood to stream 
out until the surface of a patch of ground, occupying a space 
of about three square }-ards, was saturated with it. The 
blood was allowed to dry, and in this way a hard and fairly 
impermeable surface was prepared, on which it was possible 
to paint a design. This is the only occasion on which we 
have known of any such method being adopted. With white 
pipe clay, red and yellow ochre, and powdered charcoal mixed 
with grease, the sacred design of the emu totem was then 
outlined on the ground. In this particular case, when the 
design was for the special occasion drawn on the ground, it 
was called an Ilpintira, which is simply one of the Ilkinia 
or totemic designs drawn under these conditions. The 
drawing was done by the Alatunja, his blood brothers, and 
two sons. It is supposed to represent certain parts of the 
emu ; two large patches of yellow indicated lumps of fat, of 
which the natives are very fond, but the greater part 

N 2 


represented, by means of circles and circular patches, the eggs 
in various stages of development, some before and some after 
laying. Small circular yellow patches represented the small 
eggs in the ovary ; a black patch surrounded b}- a black circle 
was a fully-formed egg ready to be laid ; while two larger 
concentric circles meant an egg which has been laid and 
incubated, so that a chicken has been formed. In addition to 
these marks, various sinuous lines, drawn in black, red, and 
yellow, indicate parts of the intestines, the excrement being 
represented by black dots. Everywhere over the surface, in 
and amongst the various drawings, white spots indicated the 
feathers of the bird, the whole device being enclosed by a thin 
line of pale pink down. It will be noticed that this design 
differs in important respects from others associated with the 
sacred objects of the totem. The latter, such as the designs 
on the Churinga, have no definite relationship, and no attempt 
at any resemblance to the objects which the)' are supposed 
to indicate, but in this drawing, though it is to a certain 
extent con\entionalised, still we can see very clearly that an 
attempt is made to actually represent the objects. The large 
yellow patches representing fat, the small \ellow circles the 
eggs in the ovary, and the patches with enclosing circles, eggs 
with shells, serve to show that the original designer had a 
definite idea of making the drawing, conventional though it 
be to a large extent, indicative of the objects which it is 
supposed to represent. 

During the day, and in fact throughout the whole ceremony, 
the Alatunja was treated with the greatest deference ; no one 
spoke to him except in a whisper, and he it was who 
regulated the whole proceedings, even down to the minutest 

The drawing, or Churinga ilpintira, was completed before 
the arrival of the messengers bearing the borrowed Churinga, 
and, when done, it was carefully concealed from view with 
branches. After the Churinga had been returned with the 
formalities already detailed, the Alatunja informed the visitors 
of his intention to perform InticJiiuvia, and, rising from the 
ground, he led the way, carrying the Churinga, to the spot 
close by where the Ilpintira was concealed. He removed the 



boughs, and, placing the Churinga on one side, squatted down, 
all the rest of the men following his example. In the intervals 
of a monotonous chant, which lasted for half an hour, he 
explained the different parts of the drawing, which was then 
again covered up and the men returned to the original meet- 
ing place, where, for the rest of the night, they chanted, sitting 
round the Churinga. 

During the night three large wooden Churinga, each about 
four feet in length, were decorated with series of concentric 

FIG. 29. — GROUl 



circles of red and }'ellow ochre and of white pipe clay, and 
tipped with bunches of emu feathers and the red-barred tail 
feathers of the black cockatoo. The Alatunja selected three 
of the older men to act the part of Inniakwa, who are 
supposed to represent ancestors of the emu totem of con- 
siderable antiquit)-, but not so far back as the Alcheringa. 
At the same time a number of the }'Ounger men were chosen 
to act the part of Illinra, who are the descendants of the 



Inniakiva, and they were painted on their chests with designs 
belonging to the totem, in charcoal and white down. 

At daylight the decorated Churinga were fixed on the 
heads of the Iiiiiiakiva, and, while three or four of the Illinra 
were despatched to the women's camp, the rest of the men 
assembled at, and sang round, the drawing. Just at sunrise 
the party left the camping ground and went to an open 
space, which had been previously selected for the purpose, on 


the opposite side of a ridge of low scrub-covered hills. The 
Illinra had meanwhile driven the women and children out 
from their camji, and shortly after the arri\-al of the main 
part)' of men the former came running towards the cere- 
monial ground and took up a jjosition at one end. The 
Inniakwa stood in llic centre some distance awa}- from, but 
still clearly seen b}-, the women and children, anrl without 
moving their feet imitated the aimless gazing about of the 
emu, each man holding a bunch of twigs in his hands, the 


Churinga on the head with its tuft of feathers being intended 
to represent the long neck and small head of the bird. The 
women watched intently, for this is one of the very few 
occasions on which they are allowed to see, even at a 
distance, a sacred ceremony. Then, with a curious gliding 
movement, the performers moved in the direction of the 
women, who thereupon uttered cries of alarm. Once more 
the three men stood quietly, moving only their heads, and 
then again ran for a few yards. Upon this the women turned 
and fled towards their camp, while the audience of men 
moved their arms as if with the one to urge the women to run 
away and with the other to call back the Inniakzua to the 
centre of the ground. 

When the women and children were out of sight the 
Itiniakwa, accompanied by the other men, ran over the low 
hill back to the camping ground, where the Churinga were 
taken from the heads of the Inniakwa and placed upright in 
the ground. About midday the Churinga, which had been 
brought back by the visiting group and had been placed on a 
small platform, were taken down and brought to the centre 
of the ceremonial ground, where they were again examined 
and rubbed with red ochre by the Alatunja and the older 
men to the accompaniment of continuous chanting on the 
part of the other men who sat around. When this was over 
all gathered together at the Ilpintira, the meaning of which 
was again explained by the Alatunja. Singing continued at 
intervals during the day, and just before dusk three newly 
appointed Inniakzva were decorated, the Illiura again drove 
the women and children from their camp to the ceremonial 
ground, and the performance of the early morning was 

On the second day precisely the same programme was 
gone through, after which the men returned to their camping 
place, the three Churinga were divested of their decorations, 
the Ilpintha was very carefully obliterated by the Alatunja 
and his sons, and the ceremony came to an end. The strange 
natives then went back to their country, and the returned 
Churinga were taken by the Alatunja and the old men of his 
group and placed in the sacred store-house. 



INTICIIIU^L\ OF Till-: Unjiamba ok Hakea Flower 


At a place called Ilyaba the ceremony is performed b}' 
men of the Bukhara and Panunga classes, and the exact spot 
at which it takes place is a shallow, oval-shaped pit, b)' the 
side of which grows an ancient Hakea tree. In the centre 
of the depression is a small projecting and much worn block 
of stone, which is supposed to represent a mass of Unjiamba 


or Hakea flowers, the tree being the Nanja tree of an 
Alcheringa woman whose reincarnation is now alive. 

Before the cercmon)' commences the pit is carefully swept 
clean by an old Unjiamba man, who then strokes the stone 
all over \\'\\\\ his hands. When this lias been done the men 
sit around the stone and a considerable time is spent in 
singing chants, the burden of which is a reiterated invitation 
to the Unjiamba tree to flower much, and to the blossoms to 


be full of honey. Then the old leader asks one of the young 
men to open a vein in his arm, which he does, and allows the 
blood to sprinkle freely over the stone, while the other men 
continue the singing. The blood flows until the stone is 
completely covered, the flowing of blood being supposed 
to represent the preparation of Abmoara, that is, the drink 
which is made by steeping the flower in water, this being 
a very favourite beverage of the natives. As soon as the 
stone is covered with blood the ceremony is complete. 

The stone is regarded as a Churinga, and the spot is 
ekiriuja, or forbidden to the women, children and uninitiated 


Ilpirla is a form of " manna," very similar to the well- 
known sugar-manna of gum trees but peculiar to the mulga 
tree {Acacia aneura). 

About five or six miles to the west of Ilyaba there is a 
great boulder of grey-coloured gneissic rock, curiously marked 
with black and white seams, at which the men of the Ilpirla 
totem perform the ceremony of InticJiiunia. On the top of 
the boulder, which stands about five feet above the ground, 
there is a similar stone weighing about twenty pounds, 
together with smaller ones, all of whfch represent masses of 
Ilpirla. The large boulder, on which the others lie, has the 
same significance, and is supposed to have been deposited 
there in the Alcheringa by a man of the Ilpirla totem, who 
has at the present time no living representative. 

When InticJiiiima is performed, a clear space is first of all 
swept round the base of the stone, and after this the Alatunja 
digs down into the earth at the base of the boulder, and 
discloses to view a Churinga which has been buried there 
ever since the Alcheringa, and is supposed to represent a 
mass of Ilpirla. Then he climbs on to the top of the boulder 
and rubs it with the Churinga, after which he takes the 
smaller stones and with these rubs the same spot, while the 
other men sitting around sing loudly, " Inka parnnta, 
nartnapurtnai, itrangatcha c/mntie, urtcngatc/ia cJiiintier 


The meaning of these words is an invitation to the dust 
produced by the rubbing of the stones to go out and jDroduce 
a plentiful supply of Ilpirla on the mulga trees. Then with 
twigs of the mulga he sweeps away the dust which has 
gathered on the surface of the stone, the idea being to cause 
it to settle upon the mulga trees and so produce Ilpirla. 
When the Alatunja has done this, several of the old men in 
turn mount the boulder and the same ceremon)' is repeated. 
Finally, the Churinga is buried at the base in its old position, 
and with this the ceremony closes. 


In this ceremony, as performed at Ilyaba, the majority 
of men are Panunga and Bukhara, only a few Kumara and 
Purula belonging to the totem. 

At early morning on the appointed (la\- the men assemble 
at the men's camp, where they decorate their foreheads, arms 
and noses with twigs of the Udnirriuga bush and smear their 
bodies all over with dry red ochre. Then they march in 
single file, the Alatunja at the head, to a spot about fifty 
yards from, and opposite to, the Erlukwirra or women's 
camp, where the women and children stand silently. Here 
the Alatunja, turning his back upon the women, places his 
hand as if he were shading his eyes and gazes away in the 
direction of the InticJiiunia ground, each man as he does so 
kneeling behind him so as to form a straight line between 
the women and the Intichiunia ground. In this position they 
remain for some time, while the Alatunja chants in subdued 
tones. After this has been done, all stand up, and the 
Alatunja goes to the rear of the column and gives the signal 
to start. In perfect silence and with measured step, as if 
something of the greatest importance were about to take 
place, the men walk in single file, taking a direct course to 
the ground. Every few yards the Alatunja, who is in the 
rear, goes out first to one side and then to the (jthcr, to .sec 
that the men keep a straight line. 

' Yantiiipa is the Arunta name for the "honey-ant" {Cantpoitoliis inflatus, 


After having traversed perhaps half a mile one man is sent 
by the Alatunja to the Ertnatuhinga to bring a special stone 
Churinga, which is required during the ceremony. 

The Intichiuma ground is situated in a depression in a 
rocky range, at a considerable elevation above the surrounding 
plains, and all over the depression are blocks of stone standing 
up on end and leaning in all directions, each of which is 
associated with a honey-ant man of the Alcheringa. 

The messenger sent to the Ertnatuhinga arrives at the 
ground as the party approaches ; he has to go a long way 
round, and must run the whole wa}'. 

All the men then group themselves round a pit-like 
depression in the rocks which is surrounded with a horseshoe- 
shaped wall of stone, open at the western end. On the east 
side is an ancient mulga tree, which is the abode of the spirit 
of an Alcheringa man, whose duty it was to guard the sacred 
ground. In the centre of the pit is a stone, which projects for 
about eighteen inches above the ground, and is the Nanja of 
an Alcheringa man who originated here and performed 

On the arrival of the party the Alatunja at once goes down 
into the pit, and some time is spent in clearing out the debris, 
while the other men stand round in perfect silence. After a 
time he beckons to some of the older men to come down and 
assist him, and then they all begin to sing while the sacred 
stone, which represents an x\lcheringa man called Erkiaka, is 
disclosed to view and taken out of the earth, together with a 
smaller smooth round pebble, which represents a mass of 
honey collected by the ants and carried about by the man. 

When the stone has been taken out it is rubbed over 
reverently with their hands by the old men, and then rubbed 
over with the smaller stone, after which it is replaced in the 
ground. This done, the big stone Churinga from the 
Ertnatiihdiga, which represents a mass of honey carried about 
by a celebrated Oknirabata ^ of the Alcheringa, named Ilatirpa, 

1 Oknirabata means a great instructor or teacher, and is at the present clay 
applied to the wise old men who are learned in tribal customs and teach them to 
the others. It is a name only given to men who are both old and wise. The 
individual represented in Fig. 9 is a famous Oknirabala. 


is brought up. This Ilatirpa was the leader of the Varumpa 
and sent out the wandering parties who started from this 
spot. In the Erttiatulunga is a long, thin, stone Churinga, 
pointed at each end and evidentl)' very old, the markings 
being nearly effaced, which represents the piece of wood 
which was carried by Ilatirpa for the purpose of digging up 
the ants on which he fed. This and the large Churinga are 
the onl\- stone ones in this particular Ertnatulimga} 

The old Alatunja takes up the Churinga, and calling the men 
up one by one, each of them walks into the pit, and lies down, 
partly supported on the knees of two or three of the older 
men. In this position the Alatunja, keeping up all the time 
a low chant, first of all strikes each man's stomach sharply 
two or three times with the Churinga, and then moves it about 
with a kind of kneading action, while another old man butts 
at the stomach with his forehead. When all have passed 
through this performance the singing ceases, the Churinga 
is handed back to the man who brought it, with instructions 
to take it back to the Ertnatiilniiga, and the column forms 
again and marches back, taking a different course, which, 
however, just as on the first occasion, leads them j^ast the 
women's camp, where again the women and children are 
standing in silence. 

On the way home a halt is made at a spot in the Il)-aba 
creek, where in the Alcheringa, as now, the final act of the 
ceremony was performed. On the banks of the creek are a 
number of mulga trees, each of which is associated with, in 
fact is the Nauja tree of, an Alcheringa man, who stood 
watching the performance as it was being conducted in the 
bed of the creek. In the same way the stones standing out 
from the banks have each of them their association with 
an Alcheringa man. On arrival at this spot all the men 
sit down, and about an hour is spent in singing of the 
Yarumpa men, of their marchings in the Alcheringa, of the 
honey, of the ant nests, of the great man Ilatirpa, and of those 
Yarumpa men who, in the Alcheringa, changed into the little 
birds now called Alpirlaka, which at the present da)^ are 
the mates of the honey-ant people, to whom they point out 
' For the exact contents of ihis ^r///rt/«//^;/^a, see p. 141. 


where the ant nests can be found. After some time the 
decoration of the Alatunja commences, while he leads the 
singing, which now has reference to the men on the 
banks, who are supposed, in spirit form, to be watching the 
performance from their Nanja trees. The decorations on 
the body of the performer are intended to represent the 
chambers in the ant nests, and those on the arms and neck the 
passages leading to the inner parts of the nests where the 
honey-ants are found. The performer squats on the ground, 
and for some time the other men run round and round him in 
the usual way, while he occupies himself with brushing the 
ground between his legs with little twigs, pausing every now 
and then to quiver. When this is over the decorations are 
removed, and the party starts back for the men's camp, 
passing as described, the women's camp on the way. 


In connection with the making of rain there are certain 
ceremonies, some of which are not of the nature of sacred 
Ouabara, and take the form of ordinary dancing festivals 
which any member of the tribe, men and women alike, 
irrespective of class or totem, are permitted to see ; but there 
is in addition to these a special and sacred ceremony, only 
shared in by the initiated men of the totem, and this is the 

As in the case of the kangaroo totem the majority of the 
members of the water totem belong to the Purula and Kumara. 
To them the secret of rain-making was imparted in the 
Alcheringa by an individual named Irtchwoanga, who also 
settled upon the exact places at which the ceremon}' should 
be performed. One of the most important of the water totem 
groups is a local subdivision of the Arunta people, inhabiting 
a district of about fifty miles to the east of Alice Springs, 
this part being known as Kartwia quatcha, or the "rain 
country." ^ The Alatunja of this group at the present time is 

^ The word Qnatcha, strictly speaking, means water. Rain is Quatcha untima, 
or falling water, running water is Qitatcha wiliina. Quatcha by itself is, however, 
often used to mean rain, and the name Kartwia quatcha is applied because the 
rain-makers of this locality are celebrated for their powers. 



a celebrated rain-maker, and the ceremony which is described 
below is the one which is ijcrformed b)- him. The office of 
Alatunja, or as it is called in these eastern groups 
" Chantchwa," descended to him from his father, who died 
recently, and the fact that he is now the head man, and not 
his elder brother, illustrates an interesting point in regard to 
the inheritance of the office of Alatunja in the Arunta tribe. 
The office has, in fact, descended to him, and not to his elder 


brother, for the simple reason that he was born a water 
man, while the woman who is the mother of both of them 
conceived the elder one in an opossum localit}'. The latter 
man is therefore the reincarnation of an Alcheringa opossum 
individual, and so it is impossible for him to be the 
head of a water group. If the old Alatunja had had no son 
of the right totem then the office would have descended to 
one of his blood brothers — always provided of course that he 
were of the right totem -and failing such a one, to some tribal 


brother or son of the water totem as determined upon by 
the elder men, or, more probably still, by the old Alatunja 
before his death. /\.s soon as the Chantchwa has decided to 
hold the ceremony he sends out messengers, called Inwiirra, 
to the surrounding groups, to inform them of his intention, and 
to call the members of the totem together. In addition to the 
latter other men are invited to come, though they will not be 
allowed to take any part in the actual Intichiwna ceremony. 
Each messenger carries in this instance a human hair girdle, a 
bunch of black cockatoo tail feathers and a hollow nose bone 
stopped at one end with a plug made of the resin obtained 
from the porcupine-grass, and ornamented at the other 
with a small bunch of owl feathers. These objects are the 
property of the Chantchwa, and to refuse to attend to the 
request of a messenger thus accredited would be considered 
a grave discourtesy, and the person committing such an 
offence would be spoken of as irgiiantha, that is churlish. 

When all are assembled, those who are to take part in the 
ceremony, that is the men of the totem, march into camp, 
painted with red and }'ellow ochre and pipeclay, and wearing 
bunches of eagle-hawk feathers on the crown and sides of the 
head. At a signal from the Chantchwa all sit down in a line, 
and with arms folded across their breasts sing the following 
words for some time : — " Ulgaj-anti alkzvarai lathrik alkzvaranti 
ulgaraa-ar Suddenly, at another signal from the Chantchwa, 
all jump to their feet and silently march out of the camp. 
They walk in single file, and camp for the night at a spot 
some miles away. At daybreak they scatter in all directions 
in search of game, which is cooked and eaten, but on no 
account must any water be drunk, or the ceremony would fail. 
When they have eaten they again paint themselves, this time 
broad white bands of bird's down being fixed on as usual with 
human blood, so that they encircle the stomach, legs, arms, 
and forehead. Some of the older Purula and Kumara men 
have meanwhile been building a special bough wurley or hut. 
which is called nalyilta at a spot not far distant from the 
main camp, where all the women and those men who are not 
taking part in the ceremony have remained behind. The 
floor of the hut is strewn with a thick la\-er of tium leaves to 


make it as soft as possible, as a considerable time has to be 
spent l)'ing down here. When the decoratin;^ is complete, 
the men march back, silently and in single file, to where the 
wurley has been built ; this always takes place about sun- 
set, and on reaching the hut the young men go in first and lie 
face downwards at the inner end, where the\' have to remain 
until the ceremony is over. Meanwhile, outside the wurley, 
some of the older men arc engaged in decorating the Chant- 
chwa. Hair girdles covered with white down are placed all 
over the head, while the cheeks and forehead are covered with 
pipeclay and two broad bands of white down pass across the 
face, one o\er the c}'cbrows and the other over the nose. The 
front of the body has a broad band of |)ipccla)' outlined with 
white down, rings of which adorn the arms. When fully 
decorated the Chantchwa takes up a position close to the 
opening into the wurlc}-, from which extends, for thirty yards, 
a shallow trench. The old men, who sit around him, now 
begin to sing, and continue to do so for some time, the 
following words : — 

" Illunga ilarlwina unaila 
Illiinga kau-wu lungalla 
Partini yerl artnuri ell arlmiri 
Verra all narlnura alia 
Parlinia yarraa all narlnurai 
Verra alia parlinia atnarlnurai 
Vokaa wau wai." 

When the singing comes to an end the Chantchwa comes 
out of the wurley and walks slowly twice up and down the 
trench, while he quivers his body and legs in the most extra- 
ordinary wa}' — far more than is customar\' in other ceremonies 
in man}' of which a quivering movement is a characteristic 
feature. While this performance is taking place the \-oung 
men arise and join the old men in singing — 

" Purlaarau kurlaa 
Rumjiaa arri 
Uni]iaakunla karla 
Ruiupiia arri 
Paakur lai," 

the Chantchwa's movements a|jpearing to accord with the 
sinefiniT. When he re-enters the w iirle\' the \ouni: men at 


once lie down again — in fact they are always in this position 
while the Chantchwa is in the wurley. The same perform- 
ance is repeated at intervals during the night, the singing con- 
tinuing with but little intermission, until, just at daybreak, the 
Chantchwa executes a final quiver, which lasts longer than 
usual, and at the end of which he appears to be thoroughly 
exhausted, the physical strain of the performance having been, 
as can be well imagined, of a severe nature. He then declares 
the ceremony to be at an end, and at once the young men 
jump to their feet and rush out of th« wurley, screaming in 
imitation of the spur-winged plover. The cry is heard in the 
main camp, and is taken up with weird effect by the men and 
women who have remained there. The decorations of the 
Chantchwa are removed, and then all march, led by him, to a 
spot just within sight of the main camp, where an old Purula 
or Kumara woman has cleared a large space and then covered 
it with gum-tree leaves. Here they lie down for a short time 
and then go to the main camp, where food and water await 
them. The whole performance may last forty-eight hours, 
and on the next night one of the ordinary rain dances, as they 
are popularly called by white men, is held, in which all the 
men take part, either as performers or as audience. The 
women do not perform, but may look on and assist in singing 
and beating time to the dancing of the men. 


About fifteen miles to the east of Henbur}-, on the Finke 
River, is a spot called by the natives Undiara.^ Here, at the 
base of a steep quartzite ridge, which runs east and west, and 
forms part of what is now called Chandler's Range, there lies 
under the shelter of a gum tree a small water-hole, which has 
ever since the far away times of the Alcheringa been associ- 
ated with the members of the Okira or kangaroo totem. From 

^ The interesting fact that an important ceremony, "designed to secure success- 
ful kangaroo hunts," and consisting in the letting of blood, was held at this spot, 
was first recorded by Dr. Stirling, who, in the Report of the Horn Expedition, 
Part iv., p. 67, has given an account of the spot, which is therein called Antiarra. 
After repeatedly hearing it pronounced by a large number of natives, we have 
adopted the spelling Undiara. 


194 NATIVP: tribes of central AUSTRALIA chap. 

the side of the water-hole the rocks rise perpendicularly for 
some fifty feet, and over them, in the short rainy seasons, the 
water falls from a pool on a rock ledge, behind which again 
rises the bare summit of the ridge. This pool arose to mark 
the spot where the Engwura fires burned in the Alcheringa, 
and the ledge is called b)* the natives the Mirra Engzvura, or 
Engwura camp of the Alcheringa. In dry seasons there is no 
water. From the rocks a small gum creek meanders awa}', 
but is soon lost in the dr\' sandy country stretching out to 
the south. 

Immediatel)' on the eastern side of the water-hole is a 
shallow cave, about twent}- feet in height and thirt}- in length, 
where the rocks have weathered in such a wa}' as to leave a 
ledge of rock about ten feet high, running along the length of 
the cave, the top of which can be gained by a parti)' natural, 
partly artificial series of rough steps lying at the end next to 
the pool. Tradition says that on this ledge the Alcheringa 
men cooked and eat their kangaroo food. 

A short distance awa}- from the eastern side of the cave is a 
curious rocky ridge, with a very sharpl)' marked vertical slit, 
which indicates the spot where an Alcheringa Kumara man 
named Abmilirka performed the rite o{ Ariltha upon himself 

The ledge arose, so says tradition, in the first instance to 
mark the spot where the body of a great kangaroo was 
deposited in the Alcheringa. It was, in fact, the Nanja stone 
of this kangaroo inhabited by its spirit part ; and tradition 
says further that to this stone came great numbers of other 
kangaroo animals, who went into the earth, leaving their spirits 
in the same way in the rocky ledge. To this tradition we 
shall have to refer at a later time, when discussing the nature 
of the /;///r///V//;/^z ceremonies ; meanwhile the interesting point 
may be drawn attention to, that, just as the Alcheringa indi- 
vidual has his Nanja tree or stone, so in certain cases such 
as this the Alcheringa animal is possessed of one. In this 
instance, for e.vample, the natives are very clear upon the 
subject that the tradition deals with an animal and not with 
an Alcheringa man — in fact, one of the latter was in pursuit 
of and killed the former, dragging the body into Undiara. 

Another tradition relates how one night a group of kangaroo 




Alcheringa men had arranged a number of Ntirtiinjas or 
sacred poles close by the water-hole, with a specially large 
one in the centre and smaller ones all round it. While they 
slept two Alcheringa women of the Unjiamba totem came 
down from the north, and ver)- quietl}\ without waking the 
men, took away the large Niwtiinja, and, clambering up a slit, 
which is still to be seen in the perpendicular face of the rock 




The ledge of rock with stripes is the Nanja of a kangaroo, and the dark colour 
above the stripes is blood, which has been poured on to the rocK during the 

above the pool, made their way to the north again to a place 
called Arapera, where they kept the Nurtunja, which figures 
prominently in certain ceremonies connected with that spot. 

This tradition, like very man}' others dealing with the 
Alcheringa times, ma}- be, with little doubt, regarded as indi- 
cative of the fact that at some past time the women were 
possessed of greater privileges than the}- enjo}' at the present 

O 2 


da}'. There is a ij^reat <;ap between the Alcherin<;a and 
recent times, and a \er\' noticeable feature is the change which 
has in some wa)' been brought about with regard to the 
position of women. The contrast in this resj^ect may be well 
seen from a comparison of the former tradition with one which 
relates to a time which the natives say was very long ago, but 
since the Alcheringa. At this time the women were not 
allowed to go anywhere near to Undiara, where the sacred 
Churinga of the group were stored. One day, however, a 
woman, being very thirsty, ventured in to the water-hole to 
drink and saw the sacred pool and the ceremonial stone. She 
was detected in the act, and after a great deal of what the 
natives call " growling " at her, it was decided to punish her 
by making her for the time being common property to all the 
men — a punishment which is not infrequently inflicted after 
the committal of some serious offence, as an alternative to 
that of being put to death. In consequence of this men of 
all classes had intercourse with her, and when this was over 
she was returned to her proper Unmca man. 

After, however, the woman had seen the place, the peculiar 
sacredness of the spot was lost, the Churinga were removed 
to another place, and the women were allowed to see the water- 
hole, except of course when the ceremony of Intichiuvia was 
being performed. As a matter of fact, though a woman would 
not actually be put to death if she came near, the old feeling 
is still so strong that the women do not often venture near to 
the spot unless compelled to do so b\' thirst. 

We may now give a short account of one or two traditions 
which are concerned with Undiara and the kangaroo totem, 
as they serve to illustrate certain points of interest in 
connection \\ith the totems and totemic animals generally. 

Tin: IIisT()KV of Uxcutmk.v uf Uni)L\k.-\ 

At the present day there is living an aged man of the Okira 
or kangaroo t<^tem, named Ungutnika. He is the reincarnation 
of a celebrated kangaroo of the Alcheringa, who sprang into 
existence at Undiara, close to the big gum tree which over- 
hangs the water pool. Ungutnika was sorely afflicterl with 


boils, called Tukira, which appeared first in the form of hard 
lumps. He bore with them for a long time, and then, being 
angr}-, pulled them out and placed them on the ground alongside 
of where he sat.^ They became changed into stones, and 
have remained there ever since. He was not as )'et fully 
grown, and was an Okira kurka, or a little kangaroo, and 
after a short time he set out to go to a place called Okirilpa. 
After he had travelled about three miles, he came to an open 
plain, upon which he saw a mob of Ukgnulia, or wild dogs, 
who had come from Okirilpa, and were then lying down close 
to their mother, who was very large. He hopped about 
looking at the wild dogs, and presentl}- the}- saw and chased 
him, and, though he hopped awa}- as fast as he could, they 
caught him on a plain called Chulina, and, tearing him open, 
eat first his liver, and then, removing the skin, the\- threw 
it on one side and stripped all the meat from off the bones. 
When the}- had done this the}- again la}- down. 

Ungutnika was not however completel}- destro}-ed, for the 
skin and bones remained, and, in front of the dogs, the skin 
came and covered the bones, and he stood up again and ran 
away, followed b}- the dogs, who caught him this time at 
Ulima, a hill a little to the north of a spot now called the Bad 
Crossing on the Hugh River. Ulima means the liver, and is 
so called because on this occasion the dogs did not eat the 
liv-er, but threw it on one side, and the hill, which is a dark- 
looking one, arose to mark the spot. The same performance 
was once more gone through, and again Ungutnika ran awa}-, 
this time as far as Pulpunja, which is the name given to 
a peculiar sound made in imitation of little bats, and at this 
spot Ungutnika turned round and, jeering derisively at the 
dogs, made the noise. He was at once caught, cut open, and 
again reconstituted himself, much to the wonder of his pursuers. 
After this he ran straight towards Undiara, followed b}- the 
dogs, and when he reached a spot close to the water-hole the}- 
caught and eat him, and, cutting off his tail, buried it at the 
place where it still remains in the form of a stone, which 
is called the Clnwinga okira pura, or Kangaroo tail Chu- 

^ The ceremony of producing evil magic at this spot is described in the chapter 
dealing with magic. 


ringa, which is ahva\-.s shown and carefully rubbed at the 
Intichiuvia ceremony. The Churinga which he carried with 
him was associated with his spirit part, and the latter has 
.since entered into a w(jman and been born in human form. 

The Kancakoo and the Kaxcakoo Men 

A Kumara man named Ulpunta, whose last descendant 
was a celebrated medicine man, who died during the course of 
the Kngwura ceremony described in this work, started from 
Okruncha, carrying only spears and other weapons and no 
Nurtunja. He was in pursuit of a large kangaroo, which 
carried a small Nurtunja, and followed it till he came close 
to Chuntilla, but being unable to catch it, gave up the chase 
and turned back, a stone arising to mark the spot. He ever 
afterwards stayed at Okruncha. The kangaroo went on and 
camped at Chuntilla, and a stone marks the spot where it 
stood up and looked over the countr}'. Here it w as seen by a 
Bukhara man of the Arunga or euro totem, who at once 
changed himself into an Okira or kangaroo man and gave 
chase to the kangaroo, as he wanted to kill and eat it. For a 
long way he followed the kangaroo, the two camping apart 
from each f)ther at various places. At Thungalula or Pine 
Tree Gap, in the Macdonnell Range, the kangaroo made a 
large Nurtunja and carried it away to Ilpartunga, not far 
from Owen's Springs, a small sand-hill arising where the 
animal lay down, and a mulga tree where the man camped. 
Travelling south along the Hugh River, they came to Alligera, 
where the kangaroo planted his Nurtunja^ a large gum tree 
now marking the spot. Hearing a noise, he raised himself up 
on his hind legs and saw a kangaroo running about. A stone 
twenty-five feet high now represents him standing on his 
hind legs. After this he scratched out a hole for the pur]30se 
of getting water, and this hole has remained to the jjresent day. 
Travelling south, he came to the Doctor's Stones, and here 
erected the Nurtunja for the last time, as he was too tired 
to carry it any further, so it was left standing and became 
changed into a fine gum tree, which is now called Apera 
Nurtunja, or the Nurtunja tree. 


Still following down the Hugh River, the kangaroo reached 
Ulpmura utterly worn out, and lay down. In a little time 
a number of kangaroo men from Undiara came up and saw the 
Bukhara man, who had also arrived. The Undiara men, 
using gesture language, said to the Bukhara man, " Have you 
got big spears ? " And he replied, " No, only little ones ; have 
you got big spears ? " And they replied, " No, only little 
ones." Then the Bukhara man said, " Put down your spears 
on the ground ; " and they replied, " Yes, put yours down 
too." Then the spears were thrown down, and all the men 
advanced upon the kangaroo, the Bukhara man keeping 
in his hand a shield and his Churinga. The kangaroo was 
very strong and tossed them all about ; then they all jumped 
upon him, and the Bukhara man, getting underneath, was 
trampled to death. The kangaroo also appeared to be dead. 
They buried the Bukhara man with his shield and Churinga, 
and then took the body of the kangaroo into Undiara. The 
animal was not then really dead, but soon died, and was 
placed in the cave but not eaten. The rock ledge in the cave 
arose where the body was put, and when the animal was 
dead its spirit part went into this, which thus became the 
animal's Nanja. Shortly afterwards the men died, and 
their spirit parts went into the water pool close by. Tradi- 
tion says that great numbers of kangaroo animals came 
at a later time to the cave, and there went down into the 
ground, their spirits also going into the stone. 


In the Alcheringa the Okira or kangaroo men of Undiara 
belonged almost, but not quite, entirely to the Purula and 
Kumara moiety of the tribe ; and at the present day the same 
holds true, but to a somewhat less extent, for, as in the case 
of all totems, there is a certain admixture of the members of 
both moieties. The head man, or Alatunja, is a Purula, and 
under his direction the ceremony of InticJmiina is performed 
at intervals, though being now an old man, he sometimes 
deputes the performance to his eldest son, who will succeed to 
the position on the death of the old man. 


When the ceremony is to be performed a camp is made at 
a spot a little to the west of the cave and out of sight of the 
water-hole, which is placed in a slight dip in the range from 
which the small gum creek leads. Earl)- in the morning of the 
da}- on which the ceremony is to take place, one of the )ounger 
men is sent on ahead to a special spot which lies about a 
hundred }'ards to the west of the water-hole. The object of 
this is to make certain that no women or uninitiated men, or 
men other than members of the totem, are in the neighbour- 
hood. The main bod)' of men comes up skirting closel}' the 
base of the range, and halts at the place where the young man 
is stationed. Here there lies hidden underground a block of 
soft gre}- sandstone, about three feet in length and one foot in 
greatest diameter, its shape in transverse section being tri- 
angular. The apex of the stone lies about a foot below the 
surface, and as the men gather round the spot, the position 
of which is precise!}' known,^ the leader clears awa}- the sandy 
soil and brings the .sacred stone into view. Its sides, worn 
smooth b}' constant rubbing, are covered o\'cr with smaller 
stones, amongst which is a special flattened one with w hich 
the rubbing is done. The Alatunja takes this stone in his 
hands, and in the presence of all the men, who stand round in 
perfect silence, rubs over the exposed surface. When this has 
been done the stone may be lifted up so as to be seen better. 
It is the Chiiriiiga okira pura, that is, the tail of the Alcheringa 
kangaroo, which was driven in by the wild dogs from Okirilpa, 
and deposited b)' them, as alread}' described, in the ground at 
this spot. Certain large blocks of sandstone, which have 
evidently tumbled down from the hillside and lay by — 
the largest of them being fully eight feet in height — are said 
to represent the dead bodies of the wild dogs. 

After the stone has been rubbed by the Alatunja and then 
examined bj- all present, it is covered up and the party 
moves onward, still skirting the base of the hill, so that the 
cave and ceremonial stone are not seen until they are close 
at hand. A halt is made at the water-hole on the side away 
from the cave, where the men drink, and then come round 

^ There is nothing on the surface to indicate that anything lies hidden beneath, 
Init the native who showed us the .stone went straight to the place and unearthed it. 


and sit right in front of, and at the base of the ceremonial 
stone. On the left hand, looking towards the stone, sit the 
Panunga and Bulthara men, and on the right the Purula and 
Kumara. Then the head man, who is at the present day a 
Purula, and a man to whom he is Gavimona, and who is 
therefore Bulthara, go out from the rest, who remain seated, 
and climb up the hill-side just to the east of the stone. Here 
at a height of about twent\- feet above the level of the plain, 
are two special blocks of stone projecting immediatel}- above 
one another from the hill-side. One is supposed to represent 
an " old man " kangaroo and the other a female. The former 
is rubbed with a stone by the Purula man and the latter by 
the Bulthara man. This over, the two men descend and 
rejoin the main part}', which is the signal for the decoration 
of the rock-ledge to begin. Red ochre and powdered and 
calcined g}-psum are used, and with these alternate vertical 
lines are painted on the face of the rock, each about a foot 
in width, the painting of the left side being done b\- the 
Panunga and Bulthara men, and that of the right by the 
Purula and Kumara. 

The red stripes are supposed to represent the red fur of 
the kangaroo {Macropus rufus), while the white ones represent 
the bones. 

\Mien the painting is done, a certain number of )'oung 
men, perhaps two or three Panunga and Bulthara and five 
or six Purula and Kumara, go on to the top of the ledge. 
The former sit down at the left and the latter at the no;ht 
side, and then they open veins in their arms and allow the 
blood to spurtle out over the edge of the ceremonial stone 
on the top of which they are seated. While this is taking 
place, the men below sit still watching the performers and 
singing chants referring to the increase of the numbers of the 
kangaroos which the ceremony is supposed to ensure. 

When the blood-letting is over, the old men go back to the 
camp and remain there, while the rest of the day is spent b}' 
the young men out on the rocks and plains in search of game, 
which is brought in and presented to the old men. This ma}- 
extend over several days, and at night-time sacred Ouabara 
are performed in camp. 




There are certain points of considerable interest with 
regard to the totems which may be briefly referred to now, in 
which certainly the Arunta and Ilpirra and, in all probability, 
others of the Central tribes agree together and differ, so far 
as is yet known, from other Australian tribes. The first point 
is the important one, to which we have had occasion to make 
frequent reference, as it is, we may say, the fundamental 
feature of the totemic system of these tribes, nameh', that 
y each individual is the direct reincarnation of an Alcheringa 
ancestor, or of the spirit part of some Alcheringa animal (as 
in the case of Ungutnika of the kangaroo totem), which car- 
ried a Churinga, and the spirit associated with which became, 
so to speak, humanised, and subsequently entered a woman 
and was born in human form. 

The second point is concerned with the relationship which 
at the present day is supposed to exist between the indi- 
vidual and his totem. A man will only eat very sparingly 
of his totem, and even if he does eat a little of it, which is 
allowable to him, he is careful, in the case, for examjjlc, of 
an emu man, not to eat the best part, such as the fat.^ The 
totem of any man is regarded, just as it is elsewhere, as the 
same thing as himself; as a native once said to us when we 
were discussing the matter with him, " that one," pointing to 
his photograph which we had taken, " is just the same as me ; 
so is a kangaroo " (his totem). That they claim a special 
connection with, almost in certain respects a right to, their 
totemic animal or plant may be seen from the fact that, for 
example, in the witchetty grub totem, while the members of 
the latter do not cat it, or, at least, only sparingl)- them- 

' The people of the emu totem very rarely eat the eggs, unless very hungry and 
sh<irt of food, in which case they would eat, but not too abundantly. If an emu 
man found a nest of eggs, and was very hungry, he might cook one, but he would 
take the remainder in to camp and distribute them. If he were not very hungry 
all the eggs would be distributed. The flesh of the bird may be eaten sparingly, 
but only a very little of the fat ; the eggs and fat are more ekirinja or tabu than 
the meat. The same principle holds good through all the totems, a carpet snake 
man will eat sparingly of a poor snake, but he will scarcely touch the reptile if 
it be fat. 


selves, the members of the local group who do not belong to 
the totem must not eat it out of camp like ordinary food, but 
must bring it into camp and cook it there, else the men 
of the totem would be angry and the supply of grubs would 
fail. We may, in fact say, that each totem ic group is sup- 
posed to have a direct control over the numbers of the animal 
or plant the name of which it bears, and further that, in theory 
at least, they have the first right to the animal or plant. That 
this is so, and that it is well recognised, will be seen from the 
following facts. 

The first is concerned with a curious, but suggestive use of 
a Churinga. In the possession of a man of the Akakia or 
plum tree totem, we found a stone Churinga, roughly circular 
in shape and about 8 cm. in diameter, wrapped up carefully 
in fur string, so as not to be seen by women as he carried it 
about with him. It was a Churinga, which had been specially 
made for him by a man who was Ikiintera or father-in-law to 
him. The man belonged to the euro totem, and the Churinga 
in question was marked with a design belonging to the same, 
a series of concentric circles in the middle of each side repre- 
senting the intestines of the animal, while two groups of 
semi-circles indicated, one of them a male, and the other a 
female euro. The Churinga had been sung over or charmed 
by the euro man and then given by him to the plum tree 
man for the purpose of assisting the latter to hunt the animal. 

The second is a series of equally suggestive ceremonies, 
which are connected with the close of the Intichinnia perform- 
ance in various local totem groups. 

After the performance oWntichiiuna, the grub is, amongst the 
Witchetty grubs, tabu to the members of the totem, by whom 
it must, on no account, be eaten until it is abundant and fully 
grown ; any infringement of this rule is supposed to result in 
an undoing of the effect of the ceremony, and the grub sup- 
ply would, as a consequence, be very small. The men of the 
Purula and Kumara classes, and those of the Panunga and 
Bukhara, who are not members of the totem, and did not 
take part in the ceremony, may eat it at any time, but it 
must always be brought into camp to be cooked. It must, 
on no account be eaten like other food, out in the bush, or 


the men of the totem would be angry and the grub would 
vanish. When, after Intic/iiunia, the grub becomes plentiful 
and full)' grown, the witchett)" grub men, women and children 
go out dail)' and collect large sujiplies, which thc\' bring into 
camp and cook, so that it becomes dr)' and brittle, and then 
the)- store it awa)' in pitdiis and pieces of bark. At the 
same time, those who do not belong to the totem, are out 
collecting. The supply of grubs only lasts a ver)- short time 
— the animals appearing after rain — and when they grow less 
plentiful the store of cooked material is taken to the Ungjinjn^ 
or men's cam[3, where, acting as usual under instructions from 
the .Matunja, all the men assemble. Those who do not 
belong to the totem, place their stores before the men who 
do, and the Alatunja then takes one pitchi, and with the 
help of other men of the totem, grinds up the contents 
between stones. Then he and the same men all take and 
eat a little, and when this has been done, he hands back 
what remains to the other people. Then he takes one pitchi 
from his own store and after grinding up the contents, he 
and the men of the totem once more eat a little, and then 
pass the bulk of what remains over to those who do not 
belong to the totem. 

After this ceremon\- the Witchett)- grub men and women 
eat ver)' sparingly of tlic grub. The)- are not absolutely for- 
bidden to eat it, but must onl)- do so to a small extent for, 
if the)- were to eat too much, then the power of successfully 
performing the lutichiuiiia would de[)art from them, and 
there would be ver)- few grubs. On the other hand it is 
equall)- important for them, and especiall)' for the Alatunja, 
to eat a little of the totemic animal as to eat none would 
have the same effect as eating too freel)-. 

In the of the kangaroo totem of L'ndiara, after the 
men have allowed the blood to pour out of their arms over 
the stone ledge they descend, and after rubbing themselves 
all over with red ochre return to the main camp, which is 
alwa)-s placed at some distance from the rock so as to prevent 
the women and children from being able to see anything of 
what is going on. All of the )-()unger men then go out hunting 
kangaroo which, when caught, they bring in to the older men 


who have stayed in camp. It is taken to the Ungunja, or 
men's camp, and there the old men of the totem, the Alatunja 
being in the middle of them, eat a little and then anoint the 
bodies of those who took part in the ceremony with fat from 
the kangaroo, after which the meat is distributed to all the 
men assembled. The men of the totem then paint their 
bodies with the totem design or Ilkinia in imitation of the 
painting on the rock at Undiara, and that night is spent in 
singing about the doings of the Alcheringa kangaroo people 
and animals. On the next morning the young men again go 
out hunting and bring in more kangaroo to the old men, and 
the ceremony of the previous day is repeated. The night is 
spent in singing, and the proceedings terminate with the 
performance of a number of sacred Ouabara connected with 
Undiara, the great centre of the totem. After this the animal 
is eaten very sparingly by the kangaroo men, and there are 
certain parts, such as the tail, which are regarded as the 
choice bits, which a kangaroo man, or of course woman, must 
on no account touch. 

In the Irriakura totem (the Irriakura is the bulb of a 
Cyperaceous plant) the members of the totem do not, after 
InticJiiunia, eat the totem for some time. Those who do not 
belong to the totem bring a quantity in to the Ungunja, 
where it is handed over to the Alatunja and other men of the 
totem, who rub some of the tubers between their hands, thus 
getting rid of the husks, and then, putting the tubers in 
their mouths, blow them out again in all directions. After 
this the Irriakura people may eat sparingly. 

In the Idnimita totem (the Idnimita is the grub of a large 
longicorn beetle) the grub must not, after Intichmnia, be eaten 
by the members of the totem until it becomes plentiful, after 
which those men who do not belong to the totem collect it 
and bring it into the Ungunja, where the store is placed 
before the Alatunja and men of the totem, who then eat some 
of the smaller ones and hand back the remainder to the men 
who do not belong to the totem. After this the men of the 
totem may eat sparingly of the grub. 

In the Bandicoot totem the animal is not eateii, after 
Intichiiima, until it is plentiful. When it is, those who do 


not belong to the totem go out in search of one which, when 
caught, is brought into the Ungutija, and there the)' \i\.\\. some 
of the fat from the animal into the mouths of the bandicoot 
men. and also rub it over their own bodies. After this the 
bandicoot men ma}' eat a little of the animal. 

It will be seen from what has now been described that at 
the j)resent da)' the totemic animal or jDlant, as the case 
ma\- be, is almost, but not quite, tabu or, as the Arunta 
people call it, ckirinja to the members of the totem. At 
the same time, though a man will tell )'ou that his totem 
is the same thing as himself, he does not mean to imply 
b)' that what Grey sa)'s with regard to the totems of the 
natives whom he studied, and who alwa)'s killed with re- 
luctance an animal belonging to their totem under the 
belief " that some one individual of the species is their nearest 
friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and to be care- 
full)- avoided." ^ 

The members of each totem claim to ha\-e the power 
of increasing the number of the animal or plant, and in this 
respect the tradition connected with Undiara, the great 
centre of the kangaroo totem, just as the Kmil)' gap is the 
great centre of the W'itchctt)- grub totem, is of especial interest. 
In the Alcheringa, as we have alread)' described, a special 
kangaroo was killed b)- kangaroo men and its bod)' brought 
to Undiara and deposited in the cave b)^ the water 
hole. The rock)' ledge arose to mark the sjx)t, and into this 
entered its spirit part and also the spirit parts of man)- (jther 
kangaroo animals (not men) who came subsequentl)' and, as 
the natives say, went down into the earth here. The rock is 
in fact the Nanja stone of the kangaroo animals, and to them 
this particular rock has just the same relationshii) as the 
water hole close b)- has to the men. The one is full of spirit 
kangaroo animals just as the other is full of sjjirit men and 
women. The purpose of the Ititicliiuma ceremoti)- at the 
present day, so say the natives, is b)' means of pouring out 
the blood of kangaroo men upon the rock, to drive out in all 
directions the spirits of the kangaroo animals and so to 
increase the number of the animals. The s[)irit kangaroo 

' Journals of Two Expeditions, vol. ii. , p. 228. 


enters the kangaroo animal in just the same way in which 
the spirit kangaroo man enters the kangaroo woman. 

In this tradition we have probably the clue to the general 
meaning of the series of Intichiiiina ceremonies, the object of 
each of which is to increase the number of the totemic animal 
or plant. Further still, attention may be drawn to the fact 
that the object of increasing the number of the totem is, in 
all cases, such as that of the Hakea or the Irriakura or plum 
tree amongst plants, or the kangaroo, euro, lizard, snake and 
so forth amongst animals, in which the totemic animal or 
plant is an article of food, that of increasing the food supply. 
That the totemic animal or plant is not regarded exactly as a 
close relative, whom it would be wrong to kill or to assist 
an}-one else to kill, is very evident ; on the contrary, the 
members of one totem not only, as it were, give their per- 
mission to those who are not of the totem to kill and eat the 
totemic animal or plant, but further, as shown clearly in the 
case of the euro man who made and charmed a special 
Churinga with the express object of assisting a plum tree 
man to catch euro, they will actuall}' help in the destruction 
of their totem. 

The question of the killing and eating of the totem which 
this opens up, quite apart from the ceremonial eating of a 
small portion of the same, after the performance oi Intichiu7)ia, 
is, so far as these tribes are concerned, one of considerable 
difficulty to deal with. We may first of all draw attention to 
certain points in the traditions which bear upon the question. 
These traditions or myths, whichever the}' be called, cannot 
be regarded as having been invented simply to account for 
certain customs now practised, for the simple reason that they 
reveal to us a state of organisation and a series of customs 
quite different from, and in important respects at variance 
with, the organisation and customs of the present time. In 
connection with the eating of the totem, for example, though 
we find very circumstantial references to this, there is no 
attempt to explain how the present tabu arose, but we find, 
on the contrar)', that, in the far awa\- times to which the 
traditions are supposed to refer, there simph- was no such 
tabu. Under these circumstances we are probabl)' justified 


in regarding the traditions in question as actually indicative 
of a time when customs in this and in other respects were 
very different from those in force at the present day. 

So far as the eating of the totem is concerned the following 
incidents, amongst others, are of importance. A euro man 
named Algura-wartna was in pursuit of a euro which carried 
fire in its body. After following it up for some time the 
man killed it and, taking the fire out of its body, cooked 
therewith some euro which he carried with him. After that 
he cooked and eat the one which he had killed. 

In a Ouabara relating to an Ornncha^ man, the decoration 
on the head referred to an Idnimita (grub of beetle) man who 
was killed by this Onincha. The man was carrying with 
him Idnimita grubs, which were specially represented in the 
decorations, and on which he was feeding. 

In a Chankuna (small edible berry) ceremony a Chankuna 
man was represented as eating the berries which he plucked 
from his beard. 

At a spot called Krathippa a plum tree woman was out 
finding plums to eat when a man came and stole her Nurtmtja 
which she had left in camp. 

An Irpunga (fish) man was seen by certain wild cat men 
during their wanderings, fishing in a small pool to catch the 
fish on which he fed. 

An opossum man was robbed by another man oi the 
moon which he carried about with him at night time so as to 
help him to catch opossums. 

During the wanderings of a party of wild cat men they are 
reported to have come to a certain spot where they met some 
men who were what is called U/pmerka of the plum tree 
totem. The wild cat men went into the earth and arose as 
plum tree men, and after that went on eating plums. 

A bandicoot woman started out with a Hakea woman. 
After some time, she, the bandicoot woman, made Quabara 
nndattha, that is performed a sacred ceremony, and painted 
the Hakea woman with down used during the ccremon)-, thus 
changing her into a bandicoot woman, after which, says the 
tradition, the latter went on feeding upon bandicoot. 

^ Oruncha is the native name for a mischievous spirit. 


An Arunga or euro man started out in pursuit of a 
kangaroo which he was anxious to kill and eat but, to enable 
himself to do this, he first of all changed himself into a 
kangaroo man. 

These and other statements of a similar nature are so 
precise (they are, as it were, often dragged into the tradition 
apropos of nothing), and are yet so entirel}- different from the 
present customs of the tribe, that they can only be under- 
stood on the hypothesis that they refer to a former time in 
which the relationship of the human beings to their totemic 
animals or plants was of a different nature from that which 
now obtains. 

At some earlier time it would appear as if the members of 
a totem had the right to feed upon the totemic animal or 
plant as if this were indeed a functional necessity, though at the 
same time it must be remembered that in the same traditions 
from which the above extracts have been made for the 
purpose of drawing attention to this feature, there are also 
plenty of references to men and women eating animals and 
plants other than their own totem. ^ The idea of a kangaroo 
man freely eating a kangaroo or a bandicoot woman feeding 
on bandicoots is so totally opposed to the present custom of 
the tribe that we are obliged to regard these traditions as 
referring to a past time when customs in respect of the 
totems were different from what the}' are now. 

In his Vocabulary of the Dialects of SoutJi- Western Australia? 
Sir George Grey, when giving the meaning of certain of the 
native names for totems, says, in regard to the Ballaroke, a 
small opossum, " Some natives say that the Ballaroke family 
derived their name from having in former times subsisted 
principally on this little animal '' ; and again of the Nag-karm 
totem, he says, " From subsisting principally in former times 
on this fish, the Xagarnook family are said to have obtained 
their name." In regard further to five totemic groups, which 
bear the names of birds, he says, that they, that is the 

' Wild cat men, for example, are represented constantly as feeding upon plums ; 
certain lizards on grass seed, while others fed exclusivel)- on lizards ; quails on 
grass seed, etc. 

- As quoted by Mr. McLennan, Studies in Ancient History, second series, p. 496. 



members of the respective totems, are said to be the birds 
transformed into men. The curious agreement between this 
and what we have just described as occurring in the Arunta 
tribe is of considerable interest. In the latter, the belief in 
the origin of the members of any totem from the animal or 
plant whose name they bear is universal and is regarded 
as a satisfactory reason for the totemic name. It may be 
that in the traditions dealing with the eating of the totem, 
^ we have nothing more than another attempt to explain the 
origin of the totem name. Judging, however, from the 
curious traditions of the Arunta tribe, taken in conjunction 
with the ceremonies of Intichinma, this does not seem to be 
.so probable as that they point back to a past time when 
the restrictions with regard to the eating were very different 
from those now in force. It is quite possible that the curious 
ceremon)' in which the members of any local group bring in 
to the men's camp stores of the totemic animal or plant and 
place them before the members of the totem, thus clearly 
recognising that it is these men who have the first right of 
eating it, as well as the remarkable custom according to 
which one man will actually assist another to catch and kill 
his — i.e., the former's — totemic animal, may be surviving relics 
of a custom according to which, in past times, the members 
of a totem not only theoretically had, but actuall)- practised,, 
the right of eating their totem. 

It may perhaps be that this eating of the totem shows that 
for some reason, as Mr. Frazer^ has sugge.sted in the case of 
certain other tribes in which the totem is eaten, the respect 
for the totem has lessened in comparison with what it once 
was ; but, in face of the solemn ceremony of Intichiuma and 
of the explicit traditions to which reference has been made, it 
is difficult to believe that this can be so. The two traditions, 
in one of which a bandicoot woman is stated to have changed 
her companion, a Hakea woman, into a bandicoot woman, 
who after that went on feeding on bandicoot, while in the 
other a euro man is described as changing himself into a 
kangaroo man for the purpose of being able to pursue, kill 
and eat a kangaroo, are perhaps sufficient to show, taken in 

' Toteruism, p. 19. 


conjunction with the InticJiiiiiiia ceremonies, that, in the 
Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, a man is most intimately associated 
with his totem, but in a way quite unHke that which is usually 
associated with the idea of a totem. At the same time, 
though the relationship is different in certain respects from 
that which exists in other tribes, }-et it will be clearly seen 
that what have been described as the totems agree in funda- 
mental points with the definition given by Mr. Frazer,^ viz., 
" A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards 
with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between 
him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether 
special relation ; " and further still we can see, to use Mr. 
Frazer's terms, the existence of both a social and a religious 
aspect. The former is not so strongly developed as it is in 
man\- other Australian tribes, amongst whom not only does 
the totem regulate marriage, but the members of the totem 
are bound to mutually assist one another. In the Arunta tribe 
the most striking feature from a social point of view is the 
strongly local character, though at the same time it must be 
remembered that any initiated member of a particular totem, 
whatever local group he belongs to, may take part in the 
totemic ceremonies. The religious aspect is most clearly seen 
in connection with the ceremonies of Intichmma and the 
subsequent solemn eating of the totem, though here again 
the relationship between the man and his totem cannot be 
described as one "of mutual respect and protection."'- It 
.seems as if, in the case of the Central Australian tribes, the 
totemic system has undergone a somewhat curious develop- 
ment ; at all events, it differs in certain respects from that 
of all other Australian tribes with which we are as yet 

^ Op. cit. p. I. - Op. cit. p. 20. 


p 2 



All Australian natives, with rare exceptions, have to pass through some initiation 
ceremony before being admitted to the secrets of the tribe — Enumeration of 
ceremonies amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes — Absence of the knocking 
out of teeth as an initiation rite — Ceremonies amongst natives of Finke 
River — First ceremony — Throwing the boy up in the air — The second cere- 
mony—Circumcision or Lartna — The Apulia ground — Women dancing — 
Decorating of the boy — Appointment of officials to conduct various jiarts of 
the ceremony — Boy receives title of Wtirtja — Handing the tireslick to the boy — 
Seclusion in the bush — Performance of certain sacred ceremonies — Ceremony 
of Ohoara- — The W'atiiu^a, its construction and meaning — Woman running off 
with the IViirtJa — Appointing an official to jiaint a totemic design on the 
novice's back — Tainting of the boy — Bringing in of the Ai-achitta poles — 
Two women rub the design off the boy's back — The women stripping the 
Arachitta poles while the men dance — Setting fire to the brakes — The women 
retire — Arachitta poles placed on the IViirtJa — Performance of the actual 
ceremony — Presentation to the novice of the men who had acted as officials — 
Giving Churinga to the novice and sending him into the bush — Restrictions 
to be observed by certain relatives of the boy while he is out in the bush — 
Ceremony of head-biting — Ceremony of subincision or Ariltha kuvta — The 
Nurtimja, its construction and meaning — Burning the blood after Ariltha — 
Men submitting to a second operation oi Ariltha — Recovery from subincision 
— Taking the Ert~va-kitrlca to the women — Elder sisters cutting oft" hair from 
the Eritva-kiirka — Throwing a boomerang in the direction of the mother's 
camp in the Alcheringa — Putting the Ertwa-kiirka on the fire — \'arious grades 
l^assed through during initiation — Ceremony of circumcision in the northern 
part of the tribe — Meaning of subincision — Nothing to do with preventing 
procreation — Customs in the Southern Arunta — Initiation of women. 

Every Australian native, so far as is known, has in the 
normal condition of the tribe to pass throui^h certain cere- 
monies of initiation before he is admitted to the secrets of 
the tribe, and is regarded as a full}- developed member 
of it. These ceremonies varj- both in their nature and 
number to a very large extent in different tribes. Those 
of the eastern and south-eastern coastal districts are entirely 
different from those of the central tribes, amongst whoin 
the}' are more elaborate and sjjread over a long .series of 
}'ears, the first taking jilace at about the age of ten or 


twelve, whilst the final and most impressive one is not 
passed through until probably the native has reached the 
age of at least twenty-five, or it may be thirt}'. In 
the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes the ceremonies are four in 
number : — 

(i^ Painting and throwing the boy up in the air. 

(2) Circumcision or Lartna. 

(3) Subincision or Ariitha. 

(4) The Engnnira or fire ceremon}-. 

The times at which these take place and the details of the 
ceremonies var\- to a certain extent in various parts of the 
tribes, which, it must be remembered, occupy an area of 
country stretching from Charlotte Waters in the south to at 
least 100 miles north of Alice Springs, that is over an area 
measuring 300 miles north and south by at least 100 miles 
east and west, and comprising in the south a wide extent of 
upland, stony plains and sand hills, and in the north a suc- 
cession of ranges running east and west, and reaching an 
elevation of 5,000 feet. 

One of the most noticeable features of the ceremonies, from 
a negative point of view, is the absence of the knocking out 
of teeth as a general custom associated with the initiatory 
rites. Amongst man}- tribes of the eastern coastal district 
this forms a prominent feature, but amongst the Central 
Australian natives, whilst it may be performed, it has nothing 
to do with initiation, and is, in fact, practised by men as well 
as women, the rite having no sacred significance of an}- kind ; 
and yet, as we shall see later, there is not onh' evidence which 
shows that it has once been a ceremony of greater importance 
than it is at the present day, but also that there are certain 
details which are curiously similar to those concerned with 
the ceremony in parts where it forms the most important 
initiation rite. 

In the case of particular local groups amongst the Arunta, 
as, for example, the natives now living in the district to the 
north and north-east of Alice Springs, it is much more widely 
practised than elsewhere; but, speaking generall}', the knocking 
out of teeth is amongst the Arunta and other central tribes 


a matter parti}' of individual and partly of local taste and 
fashion.^ The custom is probabh' to be regarded as one 
which was at some distant time prevalent amongst the 
common ancestors of the central and eastern coastal tribes, 
but which has undergone changes as the tribes became 
separated from one another and developed, so far as their 
customs are concerned, along different lines. In some it has 
retained its old significance, or ma)- have even acquired still 
greater imj^ortance as an initiator)^ rite, but in others, as, for 
example, all those inhabiting the central area, it has lost its 
old meaning, its place has been taken by other rites, and now 
it is merely what we ma}- call a rudimentary custom. 

To a certain extent, as we have said, the details of the 
v-arious initiation ceremonies differ in different parts of the 
tribe. We will first of all describe them as carried out in the 
groups living on the Finke River, and will then point out 
variations in the ceremonies as the}' are enacted, first in the 
northern, and secondh- in the southern j^arts. 

The First Ceremony — Throwing the Boy up 

The first ceremon}- takes place when a bo}- is between ten 
and twelve }-ears of age. The men. and in this instance the 
women also, assemble at a central spot near to the main camjj, 
and the boys who ha\e reached the right age — the nuinber 
varying from ceremony to ceremon}- — are taken one b}' one 
and tossed in the air several times b}- the men, who catch 
them as the}' fall, while the women dance round and round 
the group, swinging their arms and shouting loudly, ^' pan, 
pan, pan-a-a'^' the last cr}- being ver}- prolonged.- This over 
the bo}'s are painted on their chests and backs, as shown in 
the illustration, with simple designs consisting of straight or 
curved bands outlined b\- lines of red or }-cllow ochre. These 

' Rolh points out tlial in ihc trilics .sliuiicd by liiin ilic knocking out of teeth is 
indejiendent of any initiation rite, op. (it., ji. 170. 

* In the initiation of the Kurnai, Mr. Howitt descrilies how at the l)eginning of 
the ceremony each Ijoy is thrown into the air Ijy the bulhrivang, or man in 
charge of hini. A'amilroi and A'tirnai, p. 196. 


have not of necessity any reference to the totem of the boys. 
They are painted b}' men who stand to the boys in the 
relation of Umbinia, that is, brother of a woman whom the 
boy ma}- marr\-. In some cases, at all events, they are 
copied from old rock paintings, certain of which are associated 
with particular totems, but the boy will not of necessity be 
decorated with a design of his own totem. Certain of these 
particular designs are described in connection with the sacred 
drawmgs. If the boy has what is called an Unjipinna ^ man, 
then it is the latter who will draw the design upon him at the 
close of the ceremony of throwing up. 

In all the ceremonies of initiation the youth or man has 
certain designs painted on his body, and in no case have they 
of necessity any reference to his own totem, though they are 
emblematic of some totem with which usually the man who 
does the painting is associated. These designs come under 
the general term of Ilkinia, the name applied to the designs, 
as a whole, which are emblematic of the totems ; and so long 
as the boy, youth or man has one or other of these 
painted on him, it does not signify which. It must be 
remembered that the man who does the painting is usually 
the person who decides upon the nature of the design, and 
it may also be noted that in the performance of sacred cere- 
monies men are constantly decorated with designs of totems 
other than their own. 

In the case of this, the first of the initiatory ceremonies, 
the painting of each boy is done as stated by men who stand 
to him in the relationship of Umbirna, that is, a man who is 
the brother of a woman of the class from which his, i.e. the 
boy's, wife must come. The design is called EnchicJiichika, 
and while they are being painted the boys are told that the 
ceremony through which they have just passed will promote 
their growth to manhood, and they are also told by tribal 
fathers and elder brothers that in future they must not play 
with the women and girls, nor must they camp with them as 

^ If a woiiYan, whose daughter has Ijeen allotted to a man, has a son b6rn before 
she has a daughter, the man may, if he elects to do so, renounce his right to the 
daughter, and becomes U7ijipinna to the boy, who has, until he is initiated, to 
provide the man with his hair. 



they have hitherto done, but henceforth they must go to the 
camp of the men, which is known as the Ungunja. Up to 
this time they have been accustomed to go out with the 

KIC. j4. IIK-I ' 1,K1:Mv>NV o|- IMIIAIK^N, I'AI.N1I.N(. AM) lIlKOWIMi 'I'lIK 

women as they searched for vegetable food and the smaller 
animals such as lizards and rats ; now they begin to accompany 
the men in their search for larger game, and begin also to look 




forward to the time when they will become fully initiated and 
admitted to all the secrets of the tribe, which are as yet kept 
hidden from them. 


The ceremony of throwing up is called Alkirakhviiina (from 
alkira the sky, and iwiima to throw), and ver)' shortly after this 
sometimes even before it, the boy has his nasal septum bored 

2i8 NAT1\'P: tribes ok central AUSTRALIA chai-. 

through, usuall}- b\' his father or paternal grandfather, and 
begins to wear the nose bone. This boring is practised b}- 
men and women aHke, and the operation is attended by a 
short but interesting special ceremony, which is elsewhere 
described. Amongst the women the nose boring is usually 
done b\- the husband immediately after marriage, and it may 
be remarked in passing that in both sexes the constant wear- 
ing of the nose bone emphasises the flattening out of the 
lobes of the nose. 

A good many years may elapse between the throwing up 
ceremony and the performance of the two much more im- 
portant ceremonies of circumcision or Lartua, and that of 
subincision or AriltJm. Speaking generally, it may be said 
that circumcision may take place at an}' age after the boy has 
arrived at pubert)'. 

Before the time at which the boy is thrown up in the air 
he is spoken of as an Ainhaquerka, which is the term applied 
to a child generally, of whichever sex it ma)' be. After the 
throwing up, and until the cercmon)- of circumcision, he is 
called Vlpuicrka. 

Tin: Skcond Ceremony — Circumclsion or L.\rtna 

When it has been decided by the bo}''s elder male relatives 
(usuall)' his elder brothers) that he has arrived at the projjer 
age, preparations are made unknown to him, for the carry- 
ing out of the ceremon)'. These consist first of all in the 
gathering together of a large sui:)pl)' of food material fjr the 
ceremonies are attended with the ])erformance of what are 
usuall)' spoken of as corrobborecs, which last over several da)'s. 
If a stranger belonging to any other group hapjiens to be 
present in camp when the operation is being performed lie will 
take j>art in the proceedings, but in the Arunta tribe there is 
usuall)" no sending out of messengers to other groups to bring 
them in to the performance, as there is in the coastal tribes ; 
nor is it usual to operate upon more than one, or at most 
two, novices at the same time ; each boy is initiated when 
he is supposed to ha\e readied the proper age, and the 
ceremon)' is controlled b)- the men of his own k^al grouji, 


who ma}- ask any one to take part or not in it just as they 
feel disposed. 

In the following account we will describe what took place 
during an actual ceremony, which was conducted recently by 
a group of natives associated with a spot called Undiara/ 
one of the most important centres of the kangaroo totem 
situated near to the Finke River. It must alwa\'s be remem- 
bered that the details of these initiation ceremonies vary to a 
certain extent according to the locality in which they are 
performed ; thus at Undiara the men of the kangaroo totem 
directed the proceedings, and therefore sacred ceremonies 
concerned with this particular totem were much in evidence ; 
had Undiara been an emu locality then emu ceremonies 
would have predominated. Bearing this in mind, the cere- 
mony now to be described ma}' be regarded as t}'pical of the 
rite of circumcision as carried out by the natives living along 
the Finke River, who are often spoken of as Larapinta blacks 
to distinguish them from other groups, Larapinta being the 
native name of the river. 

The boy was seized earl}- in the evening at the Ungunja, or 
men's camp, b}- three }'oung men, who were respectively 








A, place where the men sit ; C, place where the women dance ; D, spot where 
the operation is carried out ; d, lirake in front of which the men sit ; e, brake 
behind which the novice sits ; F, banks of the Apulia with pathway between. 

Okilia, Uinhinia and Unkidla to him. As soon as they laid 

hands on him they shouted loudl}', " UtcJiai, 7itc/iai^' while 

being frightened, he struggled, trying to get free from them. 

He was at once carried off bodil}' to the ceremonial ground 

which had been carefully prepared at some distance from and 

out of sight of the main camp, so that the women, when at 

the latter, could not see an}'thing of what was taking place at 

'' For a description of Undiara, and the traditions and ceremonies associated 
with it, see Chapter \'I., ]). 193 stj(j. 


the former, which is called the Apulia. The nature of this 
can be seen from the accompanying plan. A path about 
five feet wide is cleared of grass and shrubs, and the surface 
soil is heaped up on either side, so as to form a low, narrow 
bank of the same length as the path, which is some fort)' or 
fifty feet in length, and alwa\-s made so as to run east and 
west. At a distance of about forty feet from the eastern end 
was a brake of boughs at which the men were assembled. The 
women were grouped at the spot marked C. 

Once on the ground, and in the presence of all the men and 
women, the boy made no further resistance, but apparently 
resigned himself to his fate. He was taken to the men and 
sat down amongst them, while the women, who had been 
awaiting his arrival, at once began to dance, carrying shields 
in their hands. The reason assigned for this is that in the 
Alcheringa certain women called Unthippa i carried along with 
them as the)' travelled over the countr)- a number of )-oung bo)'s 
wh(j were just being initiated. As they travelled along, dancing 
the whole way, they also carried shields : and therefore it is 
that, at the present day, the initiation ceremony must commence 
with an imitation of the Unthippa dance of the Alcheringa.- 
Except in connection with this ceremony women may never 
carry shields, which are exclusively the jjroperty of the men, 
just as much as a digging-stick is the jjcculiar propert)' of a 
woman. While the women were dancing the men sang of the 
marching of the Unthippa women across the countr)-. After 
the bo)' had watched and listened for some time, an Unknlla'^ 
man came up and twined round and round his hair strands of 
fur string, until it looked as if his head were enclosed in a 
tight-fitting skull cap. Then a man who was Ganiniona to 
him came up and fastened round his waist a large Uliara, 
that is, the human hair girdle worn by the men, the girdle 
being provided by an C^Xv/m of the boy. The two first-named 
men were respectively the brother of the boy's mother and the 

' For an account of these see p. 441. 

- Roth describes the women as decorated after the manner of warriors alxnit to 
engage in a fight during the early ]5art of ihe proceedings, op. (it.., p. 170. 

■' If the boy had had an Unjipinna man, that is an Umbirtm who had waived 
his right to the boy's sister as wife, then it would have been the duty of this man 
to tie the hair up. 


son of this man, the Oknia being a tribal brother of the boy's 
father who was dead, as also was the actual mother. After 
this a council of the Oknia and Okilia^ of the novice was 
held, and three men, who were respectively Miira, Gavimona 
and Chimuiia, were told off to take the boy away and paint 
him. These men are afterwards called Wiilya, or Uwilia, by 
the boy. They first of all went away and built a second 
brake of bushes at the western end of the Apulia, at a 
distance of about forty feet from the end of the cleared path, 
so that in position the second brake corresponded to the first 
one at the opposite end. This was henceforth to be the 
brake behind which the boy had to remain except when 
brought on to the ground to witness performances. When 
this had been made the three men returned and led the boy 
through the dancing women to his brake, where, with great 
deliberation, they rubbed him all over with grease, and then 
decorated his body with pinkish-white clay and bird's 

During all the proceedings every detail, such as the 
appointing of the various officials, was determined upon by a 
council of men consisting of the Oknia (tribal fathers) and 
Okilia (blood and tribal elder brothers) of the novice, and of 
this council the elder Oknia was head man. 

After painting him, the Uivilia told the bo}' that he was 
now no longer an Ulpmerka but a Wuftja, that during the 
proceedings about to follow he must render implicit obedience, 
and on no account must he ever tell any woman or boy any- 
thing of what he was about to see. Should he ever reveal 
any of the secrets, then he and his nearest relations would 
surely die. He must not speak unless spoken to, and even 
then his words must be as few as possible, and spoken in a 
low tone. He was further told to remain crouched down behind 
his brake when left there, and that on no account must he 
make the slightest attempt to see what the men at their brake 
were doing. Should he try to see what was going on at the 
Apulia, except when taken there and told to watch, some 

1 In using these terms we include, unless specially stated to the contrary, tribal 
as well as blood relations ; the Oknia, for example, include the actual father and 
also the father's brothers. * 


great calamity would happen to him — Tivanyikira, the great 
spirit whose voice was heard when the bull-roarers spoke, 
would carry him away. When these instructions had been 
given to him by the Uzvilia they went away, and he was then 
visited b\' his Okilia, who repeated precisely the same instruc- 
tions, and after this the Wjirtja was left for an hour or two 
to his own reflections. Meanwhile a man had been appointed 
to act as Uri)itlia)itima, whose duty will be seen shortl\-, and 
until daylight dawned the dancing and singing went on with 
astonishing vigour. Then one of the Okilia went and brought 
back the Wtirtja, passing with him as before through the 
middle of the dancing women, who opened out to allow them 
to pass through, and placed him sitting on the lap of the 
UrintlumtiDia man. 

The oldest Mia woman of the boy (his actual Mia or 
mother being dead) had brought with her from her own camp 
a fire-stick, which she had been careful to keep alight all 
night. At daylight she lit a fire by means of this, and then 
took two long sticks with which she had provided herself, 
and, lighting them at the fire, went and sat down, holding 
them in her hands, immediately behind the UrintJiantima 
man. The Uwinna, that is the sisters of the boy's father, went 
and also sat down along with her. Then, as the men began 
to sing a special fire song, she handed one of the fire-sticks to 
the woman who was the Miira tualcha of the boy, that is the 
woman whose eldest daughter, born or unborn, has been 
assigned to the Wurtja as his future wife, so that she is 
potentially his mother-in-law. While the singing went on 
this woman approached the boy, and, after tying round his 
neck bands of fur string, she handed to him the fire-stick,^ telling 
him as she did so to always hold fast to his own fire — in 
other words not to interfere with women assigned to other 
men. After this, at a signal from an old Okilia, the Wurtja 
got up and ran away, followed by a number of shouting 
boys, who after a short time returned, and, along with the 
women, left the Apulia ground and ran back to the main 
camp. The old Mia took her fire-stick with her, and in camp 

' The handing of the firestick is called Unchalkulkna, and the fire is regardetl 
as being of a sacred character. 


guarded it with great care, fixing it at an angle into the 
ground so as to catch the wind and ensure its being kept 
alight. The IVurtj'a had, whilst in his camp, to guard his 
fire-stick in just the same way, and was cautioned that if 
he lost it, or allowed it to go out, both he and his Mia 
would be killed by KurdaitcJia. On the day on which he 
was taken back to the camp, the}' both threw awa}- their 

When the Wurtja left the Apulia, he was accompanied b}' 
some Okilia and Unkulla men who remained out in the 
bush with him for three days. During this time nothing of 
any special nature happened to him beyond the fact that he 
m.ight not speak unless he was first spoken to, which seldom 
took place, and that he might not eat freely, though as yet he 
was not bound by the restrictions with regard to food which 
he would shortly have to obey. The main object of this 
partial seclusion is to impress him with the fact that he is 
about to enter the ranks of the men, and to mark the break 
between his old life and the new one ; he has no precise 
knowledge of what is in store for him, and the sense that 
something out of the ordinary is about to happen to him— 
something moreover which is of a more or less mysterious 
nature — helps to impress him strongly with a feeling of the 
deep importance of compliance with tribal rules, and further 
still with a strong sense of the superiority of the older men 
who know, and are familiar with, all the mysterious rites, 
some of which he is about to learn the meaning of for the 
first time. 

On the fourth day the Wurtja was brought back, and at 
once placed behind his brake, which is called Atuunibanta, 
and from which he might not move without the permission of 
one of the Okilia who had been told off to guard him, and 
whose father was the Oknia who acted as the head man of 
the council. On the night of the fourth day the men sang of 
the marchings of the men of the Ullakuppera (little hawk) 
totem in the Alcheringa, and of their operations with their 
famous Lialira or stone knives. It was these men who, 
according to tradition, first introduced the use of a .stone 
knife at circumcision, the operation having been prexiously 



conducted by means of a fire-stick.^ At times they broke 
into the Lartna song : 

" Irri yiilui yulta i;ii 
LM katchera ul kalchar-rai," 

which is always sung in loud fierce tones. About midnight 
two Okilia went to the Wurtja's brake, and having put a 
bandage round his e\'cs led him to the men who sat as usual 


on the side of tlicir brake facing towards the Apulia. Here 
he was placed l>'ing face downwards, until two men who were 
going to perform a ceremony were in position between the 
Apulia lines. The Quabara, wln'ch thc\' were about to per- 
form, was one of a certain number which are only performed 
at a time such as this, though in all important resjiects these 
Quabara are identical with those performed during \arious 

' In the southern part of the trilie the tradition is that an aged woman, angry 
l)ecause of the number of boys who were killed in consequence of the use of a fire- 
stick for circumcision, showed tlic men how to use a stone knife. 


ceremonies concerned with the totems, \^'hen the boy was 
told by his Okilia and Oknia to sit up and look he saw, lying 
in front of him, and on his side, a decorated man whom the 
Okilia and Oknia, both of them speaking at once, told him 
represented a wild dog. At the other end of the Apulia a 
decorated man stood, with legs wide apart, holding up twigs 
of Eucal}'ptus in each hand, and having his head ornamented 
with a small Waninga} which is a sacred object emblematic 


of some totemic animal, in this particular case a kangaroo. 
This man moved his head from side to side, as if looking for 
something, and every now and then uttered a sound similar to 
that made by a kangaroo, which animal he was supposed to 
represent. Suddenly the dog looked up, saw the kangaroo, 
began barking, and, running along on all fours, passed between 
the man's legs and lay down behind the man, who kept watch- 
ing him over his shoulder. Then the dog ran again between 
the kangaroo-man's legs, but this time he was caught and well 

^ For a description of this, see page 231 sq. 



shaken, and a pretence was made of dashing his head at^ainst 
the ground, whereupon he howled as if in pain. These move- 
ments were repeated several times, and finally the dog was 
supposed to be killed by the kangaroo. After a short pause 
the dog ran along on all fours to where the IVnrtJa sat and 
laid himself on top of the boy, then the old kangaroo hopped 
along and got on top of both of them, so that the IVur/'Ja had 
to bear the weight of the two men for about two minutes. 
When the performers got up, the U'/zr/ja, still K'ing down, 
was told by the old men that the Ouabara represented an 
incident which took place in the Alchcringa, when a wild dog- 
man attacked a kangaroo-man, and was killed b)' the latter. 
The article which the kangaroo wore on its head was 
a Waniiiga, which was a sacred object, and must never 
be mentioned in the hearing of women and children ; it 
belonged to the kangaroo totem, and was indeed the re- 
presentative of a kangaroo. When all had been explained 
to him, he was led back to his brake, and the men continued 
singing at intervals all night long. 

The Ouabara, which are performed at these initiation cere- 
monies, vary according to the localit)' in w hicli lhc\- arc being 
performed, and the men who are taking the leading jjart in 
them. If, for example, the old man who is presiding belongs 
to the emu totem, then the Quabara will at all e\cnts to 
a certain, and probably a large extent, deal with incidents 
concerned with ancestral emu men. In the particular cere- 
mony upon which this account is based, the old man 
presiding belonged to the kangaroo totem, and therefore 
Ouabara belonging especially to this totem were much in 
evidence. The totem of the novice has no influence what- 
ever on the nature of the particular Ouabara performed. 
Each old man who presides over, or takes the leading part 
in, a ceremony such as this has pos.session of a certain number 
of Quabara, and naturally those performed are chosen from 
this scries as they are the ones which he has the right to 
perform. It is necessary also to remember that ceremonial 
objects, such as the ]Va)iinga, which figure largely in some 
districts, are unknown in others where their place is taken by 
entirely different objects. Thus, for example, in the northern 


part of the Arunta and in the Ilpirra tribe, a sacred pole called 
a Niirtiinja is used, and in these parts this has precisely the 
significance of the Waninga, which is never met with in the 
northern districts, just as the Niirtuiija is never met with in 
the south. 

On the fifth da}', in the afternoon, another performance in 
which two kangaroos and one dog figured was given. The 
kangaroos wore, as before, small Waninga in their hair, and 
this time carried between their teeth, and also in their hair, 
bunches of wooden shavings soaked in blood, which were 
supposed to represent wounds received from the bites of the 
dogs. The performance was essentially similar to that of the 
previous day, and the antics of the dog as he ran round and 
looked up, barking at the kangaroo or howled lustily as his 
head was bumped against the ground brought smiles to every 
face except that of the Wiirtja. Finally the dog ran along 
and got on top of the Wiirtja, and then the two kangaroos 
followed, so that this time the boy had three men on top 
of him. When all was over he was once more instructed, 
cautioned, and taken back to his brake. 

On the sixth day the Wtirtja was taken out hunting by 
Okilia and Uuibirna men, and the night was spent in singing 
with little intermission songs which referred to the wanderings 
of certain of the Alcheringa ancestors, to which the Wuvtja, 
sitting quietly at the men's brake, listened. 

It must be remembered that it is now for the first time that 
the Wiirtja hears anything of these traditions and sees the 
ceremonies performed, in which the ancestors of the tribe are 
represented as they were, and acting as they did during life. 
In various accounts of initiation ceremonies of the Australian 
tribes, as, for example, in the earliest one ever published — the 
one written by Collins in 1804 — we meet with descriptions of 
performances in which different animals are represented, but 
except in the case of the Arunta tribe, no indication of the 
meaning and signification of these performances has been 
forthcoming beyond the fact that they are associated with 
the totems. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes they are not 
only intimately associated with the totemic system, but have 
a very definite meaning. Whether they have a similar 

Q 2 


significance in other tribes we have as yet no definite 
evidence to show, but it is at all events worthy of note 
that whilst the actual initiation rite varies from tribe to 
tribe, consisting in some in the knocking out of teeth, and 
in others in circumcision, &c., in all, or nearh- all, an im- 
portant part of the ceremon}- consists in showing to the 
novices certain dances, the important and common feature 
of which is that they represent the actions of special totcmic 
animals. In the Arunta tribe, however, the}' have a \ery 
definite meaning. At the first glance it looks much as if 
all that they were intended to represent were the be- 
haviour of certain animals, but in reality they have a much 
deeper meaning, for each performer represents an ancestral 
individual who lived in the Alcheringa. He was a member 
of a group of individuals, all of whom, just like himself, were 
the direct descendants or transformations of the animals, the 
names of which they bore. It is as a reincarnation of the 
never-dying spirit part of one of semi-animal ancestors 
that every member of the tribe is born, and, therefore, when 
born he, or she, bears of necessit)' the nainc of the animal or 
plant of which the Alcheringa ancestor was a transformation 
or descendant. 

The nature of these jDerformances ma)' be gathered from 
one which was performed on the next — the seventh day. As 
usual in all these ceremonies, the body of the performer was 
decorated with ochre, and lines of birds' down, which were 
supposed to be arranged in just the same way as they had 
been on the body of the Alcheringa man. From his waist 
was suspended a ball of fur string, which was supposed to 
represent the scrotum of the kangaroo, and when all was 
ready the performer came hopping leisurely out from behind 
the men's brake, where he had been decorated, lying down 
ever)' now and then on his side to rest as a kangaroo does. 
The boy had, as usual, been brought blindfolded on to the 
ground, and at first was made to lie flat down. When the 
performer hopped out he was told to get up and watch. For 
about ten minutes the jDcrformer went through the characteris- 
tic movements of the animal, acting the part very cleverly, while 
the men sitting round the Wiirtja sang of the wanderings of 


the kangaroo in the Alcheringa. Then after a final and very 
leisurely hop round the Aptdla ground the man came and 
lay down on top of the Wtirtja, who was then instructed in 
the tradition to which the performance refers. He was told 
that in the Alcheringa a party of kangaroo men started from 
a place called Ultainta, away out to the east of what is now 
called Charlotte Waters, and that after wandering about they 
came to a spot called Karinga (in the Edith Range about thirty 
miles south-west of Alice Springs), where one of the party who 
was named Unburtcha died ; that is, his body died, but the 
spirit part of him was in a sacred Churinga, which he carried 
and did not die, but remained behind along with the Churinga 
when the party travelled on. This spirit, the old men told 
him, went, at a later time, into a woman, and was born again 
as a Purula man, whose name was, of course, Unburtcha, and 
who was a kangaroo man just as his ancestor was. He was 
told that the old men know all about these matters, and decide 
who has come to life again in the form of a man or woman. 
Sometimes the spirit child which goes into a woman is 
associated with one of the sacred Churinga, numbers of which 
every Alcheringa individual carried about with him or her 
(for in those days the women were allowed to carry them 
just as the men were), and then, in this case, the child 
has no definite name, but of course it belongs to the 
same totem as did the individual who had carried the 
Churinga about in the Alcheringa ; that is, if it were a kan- 
garoo man or woman, so of course must the child be, and 
then the old men determine what shall be its secret or 
sacred name. 

It is in this way that the boy during the initiation ceremonies 
is instructed, for the first time, in any of the sacred matters 
referring to the totems, and it is by means of the performances 
which are concerned with certain animals, or rather, apparently 
with the animals, but in reality with Alcheringa individuals 
who were the direct transformations of such animals, that the 
traditions dealing with this subject, which is of the greatest 
importance in the eyes of the natives, are firmly impressed 
upon the mind of the novice, to whom everything which 


lie sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air of 

After the performance was over, the ]Viirtjir was led back 
to his brake, and then a council was held for the purpose of 
selectinf^ a man to perform the oj^eration, and another man to 
act as assistant. Both these men are called Atiuia ahvia 
and in addition to them, another man was selected, whose 
dut}' it was to hold up the shield upon which the bo)' was 
seated during the operation, this man bcinij^ known by the 
name of ElucJia. The conversation was carried on in 
whispers, the men when speakin<T, placint,^ their mouths 
close to, each other's ears. While this consultation was in 
progress, the other men sitting close to the brake sang 
in fierce loud tones, the Lartiia song — " Irriyulta ynlta 
mi" &c. 

After discussing matters for some time, it was decided that 
an old man who was Miira to the bo)', was to perform the 
caramon}-, and that a man who was GaunnoJia to the former, 
was to act as assistant, while another old man \\ho was Ikniitcra, 
that is possible father-in-law, was to act as shield-bearer or 
Eliicha. It must be remembered that, in addition to the 
honour attaching to these offices, there are certain emolu- 
ments, for, when the operation is all over, the boy has to 
provide each of these men with an offering of food. As .soon as 
this decision had been arrived at, the singing stopi)ed, and the 
three Okilia went and sat in a line at the end of the Apulia jjath, 
looking \ery gra\e, as if the business now to be performed 
ware of the deepest importance. Each one of them then got 
up in turn, and bringing one of the appointed officials, each 
of w horn made a pretence of reluctance, placed him in front 
of the line occupied by himself and his brother Okilia, so that 
now there were two rows of men facing each other. The old 
Miira man sat in the middle of his row, and facing him was 
the eldest of the Okilia. The latter then smoothed with his 
hand the surface of the ground between the two lines, and 
then, picking up a spear-thrower by the end to which the 
point was attached, he thrust his beard into his mouth, as did 
also the Miira man, and for a short time both glared fiercely 


at one another. Then without taking his eyes off the Mura 
man, he scooped up with the chisel end of the weapon a little 
soil, and, gliding along on his knees, emptied it into the 
hands of the former. Then he embraced him, rubbed their 
bodies together, and finally rubbed his forehead against the 
stomach of the Miwa man. When this was over, he repeated 
the whole performance with the two other officials, and then 
the three old men were embraced in turn by the other 
Okilia, who, however, did not present them with dirt. 

The meaning of the ceremony is simpl}-, so they say, to 
imply that the youth is intrusted to them for the purpose of 
being initiated, with as little hesitation as the dirt is placed in 
their hands. 

This little ceremon}- is called Okoara, and was conducted 
with much solemnity. When it was over, the men who had 
taken part in it joined the others, and once more the Lartna 
song was sung with much fierceness. Singing was kept up 
all night long with only short intervals of rest. Early in the 
evening, the Wiirtja was brought from his brake, and spent 
the night amongst the men, listening to, but taking no part in, 
the singing. 

The morning of the eighth da)' was spent in preparing for 
a ceremon}- concerned with the Illuta (a rat) totem. The 
particular rat-man or man-rat — for, as already said, the identity 
of the human individual is sunk in that of the object with 
which he is associated, and from which he is supposed to 
have originated — to whom this ceremony referred, is supposed 
to have travelled from a place called Pulkira, west of the 
Finke River to Walyirra, where he died, and where his spirit 
remained associated as usual with the Churinga. In con- 
nection with this ceremony a large Waninga was used, which 
was made as follows. A long spear was taken, and close to 
each end a bar of wood about two feet in length was fixed at 
right angles to the length of the spear. Then strands of hair 
string were tied on so that they ran from cross bar to cross 
bar parallel to the central spear, and at each end the strands 
passed off, slantwise, to the latter. In some Waningas there 
may be three cross bars, in which case the top one is much 
smaller than the other two, and an extra series of strands of 


string pass from the outer part of the second cross bar to the 
top one, as shown in the figure (Fig. 39). The string is not 
all of one kind, but, in the one figured for example, the strands 
nearest to the central spear were of black human hair, then 
followed a band consisting of about eight strands of red-ochred 
opossum fur string, then a band of grey bandicoot fur string, 
and again, on the margin, another band of opossum fur. The 
whole IVaniiiga had white birds' down sprinkled over it and 
made to adhere to the string, as usual, by means of human 
blood. This object is the most elaborate and certainly the 
most artistic of all those which are used in connection with 
the various ceremonies. 

In this particular ceremony the whole Waitinga represented 
the body of a rat, the main part was supposed to be the trunk 
of the animal, the point end, the tail, and the handle end, the 
head, so that when in use the latter was carried downwards. 
The cross bars represented the limbs. The Wanivgn was 
carried by an Okilia while another man walked behind to 
steady it. Two other men were decorated to represent two 
Ktitta kutta or little night hawks. When all was ready 
the Wurtja was brought blindfolded as usual from his brake 
to the Apulia ground, where he remained with his head 
covered up until the performers had got into position in front 
of him. They approached from the south side, making a 
circuit and walking with their backs turned towards the 
Apulia until they got opposite to, and about thirty \ards 
from, the Wurtja, when the bandage was at once taken from 
his eyes. The two little hawk men with legs wide apart 
and hands grasping the ends of a stick which was held across 
the shoulders, came along down the Apulia lines towards the 
audience, slidingand quiveringas theydidso. Then they quickly 
returned, and were followed by the Waninga carriers who ran 
down the lines, stooping and bending the Waninga towards 
the Wurtja, but without touching him. Stopping every now 
and then, they stood erect and quivered or stood still. This 
was done several times, and then finally all four men came 
into the Apulia lines at the same time, the two little hawk men 
being at first in front ; the latter then retired to the sides, and 
the Waninga carriers came on (juivering. Then a man who 


was Ikuntera to the bo)- stepped out, and taking the Waninga'^ 
set it up in the Apulia path, and the Wurtja was told by 
Oknia and Okilia men to go out and embrace it, which he 
did for some minutes, while the men who had carried it stood 
by, and the others, gathered together at the brake, sang of the 
Waninga, and of the wanderings of the rat men in the Alcher- 
inga. Once more the usual instructions and warnings were 
given to the Wurtja, and he was made to lie down with his 
head covered while another ceremon)- of a simple nature was 
prejDared. The men around him occupied the time in singing 
about a party of Alcheringa individuals who started to walk 
from a place called Ayaiya. After the singing had gone on 
for about an hour, the Wurtja was told to look up, and, when 
he did so, he saw a number of men lying about the Apulia 
ground who at once began to hop about and to imitate 
the sound made b}' kangaroos. One old man in particular 
was noticeable from the way in which he mimicked the move- 
ments of an old and disabled animal. After hopping in and 
about the Apulia ground for some minutes, the}' bunched up 
together at the western end of the ground and then suddenly, 
rising with a loud shout of " Pau pau pau',' ran away to a 
small gully out of sight of the Wurtja, who was told that 
these represented a part}- of Alcheringa men starting off from 
Ayai}-a. After this, and while further preparations were being 
made, the Wurtja remained with the audience, but had his 
head covered. The tradition dealing with this special group 
f)f kangaroos relates that the j^arty split into two, a larger 
and a smaller one, and that the larger one travelled on ahead 
of the smaller one. When preparing for the ceremony, the 
bodies were first of all rubbed over with red ochre, then two 
young men opened veins, first in one arm and then in the 
other, and allowed the blood,.to flow out in a stream over the 
heads and bodies of those who were about to take part in the 

' In the .soutlicrn [nirl (if llic .VruiUa Uio //-'«;/ />/;'« is used in Uiis way during the 
ceremony o{ I.artna, but neither a ll'aninga nor a Niirtuiija is used at the ceremony 
of sub-incision ; in the central and western part of the Arunla a Wanius;a is used 
at circumcision and a Nurtiutja at sub-incision, and in the northern part of the 
Arunta and in the Ilpirra tribe neither of them is used at circumcision, but a 
Nurtiiuja at sub-incision. 




ceremony. These men, who were ten in number, were then 
ornamented with httle patches of down, but, unlike the usual 
plan of ornamentation, there was no regular pattern made, 
the reason for this being that the Alcheringa men had not 
used any regular pattern. 

Each man carried on his head, and also between his teeth, a 
small mass of wooden shavings saturated with blood. 

When all was ready they went, with the exception of three 
who sta}-ed behind, on to the Apulia ground, walking in 


single file and carrying twigs of Eucalyptus in their hands. 
When they reached the ground a j-oung man, who led the 
column and represented a young and frolicsome kangaroo 
which, according to tradition, accompanied the marchers, lay 
down sideways across the entrance to the path, with his back 
towards the Wiirtja. The other men stood in the path with 


their legs wide apart, one behind the other, shifting their 
heads from side to side and making the twigs quiver. Then 
the Wurtja was told to sit up and the performers at once 
greeted his appearance with imitations of the sounds made by 
kangaroos ; then the young kangaroo called Ktilla Knlla, 
began frisking about and pretending to rush at the other 
performers, and, finally, darted between the legs of each man 
and emerged at the western end of the column, where he lay 
down quietly a few minutes. After he had gone through this 
performance four times, he was caught up as he came through 
the legs of the man nearest to the Wiirtja. The two front 
men then picked him up and carried him bodily, standing 
astride of him, and laid him on his back on top of the Wurtja, 
upon whom all of the performers then threw themselves, so 
that the unfortunate novice had actually to bear the weight 
of the whole mass of men. As a result of this the Wurtja 
himself did not appear to be any the worse for what must 
have been a somewhat trying experience, but one of the two 
men who had carried the Kulla Kulla fainted as soon as the 
men extricated themselves. The stoical calmness of the 
Wurtja was most marked throughout the whole ceremony. 
After this first act in the performance, the men who had taken 
part in it seated themselves amongst the audience, and the 
remaining three men came on to the ground and went 
through the same performance, one of them personating a 
young kangaroo, who was carried up to and laid on the Wurtja, 
the other two men lying on the top of him. For this lying 
down on the top of the Wurtja there is a special term used — 
wultha-chelpima. After the usual explanations and cautions 
the Wurtja was led back to his brake. 

On the morning of the ninth day the Wurtja was carefully 
greased all over by the Okilia, who was especially in charge 
of him, and he remained crouching or lying down at his brake 
until noon, when he was brought blindfolded to the ground. 
Then the kangaroo performance of the previous day was 
again enacted, the performance including the lying down upon 
the Wurtja. 

In addition, however, to the decorations of the previous 
day, four of the old men wore on their heads a half circle 


made of grass stalks, bound round with fur string and de- 
corated with white down called Atnuta. Each of these 
represented a dead kangaroo, which was carried on the head 
b}- the xAlcheringa kangaroo ancestor as he marched across 
the country. In connection with this myth it is of interest to 
note that at the present day when a kangaroo or wallaby is 
killed the limbs are always dislocated at the joints, which 
makes them hang more limply and so renders them more 
easy to carr}-. In this condition the body is spoken of as 
Atnuta and the act of dislocating is called itllakakulla. 
After the performance the Atnuta were taken off the heads 
and handed round, while each man squatting on the ground 
kept the object pressed round his stomach for a few minutes, 
the ]Vic7'ija doing this also. 

After this two more kangaroo ceremonies were performed, 
the second of which was of some importance. The principal 
performer carried a Watiinga, which was really a double one, 
the top part representing a separate small one attached to the 
large one. The large ]]^ani}iga represented an old man 
kangaroo and the small one his son. Two men, as usual, 
carried the Waninga, the front one supporting it on his back 
while the other man helped to keep it upright as they 
advanced and retreated along the Apulia path, stopping every 
now and then to quiver and to bend the JVaninga over to- 
wards the Wurtja. The Iknntera man then stood up, and 
taking the Waninga from the performers, fixed it upright in 
the path, and the boy was once more told to go up and 
embrace it. The showing of the Waninga to the Wnrtja is 
called aniba-keli-irrima, which means the child sees and 
knows. The embracing of the Waninga is called eliaqna 
erkiima. After the performance the Wurtja was once more 
instructed and cautioned not to reveal anything to women 
and children, and then made to lie down, while in loud fierce 
tones the men sang the Lartna song, '' irri yulta yulta rai" &c., 
striking the ground with their shields as they did so. Then 
the Wicrtja was taken back to his brake, where he remained 
till about nine o'clock at night, when he was brought to the 
Apulia, and there his head was decorated with stalks of cane 
grass, while at the same time the other men decorated them- 


selves in the same wry, insertinc^, in addition, stalks beneath 
their arm bands. 

When this had been done the brake of boughs at which the 
men assembled was built higher and the men all crouched 
behind it. Then, at a signal from the old Okiiia, the women 
once more approached from the main camp, shouting as they 
did so, '" pai ! pai ! pat !" and took possession of the Apulia 
ground upon which the}- danced for some minutes. Then 
they went and stood on one side, which Avas the signal for the 
men to come out and stand on the Apulia. Then once more 
the women came up and joined the men, while the latter 
danced round, and the women, shouting "" pai ! pai ! pai !'' 
])lucked the grass stalks from their heads. The men all 
danced with their faces turned towards the east as in the 
stripping dance at a later time, one or more women stand- 
ing behind each man. Then the Mura woman, who had 
previously given the fire-stick to the novice, after having 
stripped the Wurlja as he danced along with the other 
men, suddenl}' stojDpcd, and, placing her head through his 
legs from behind, hoisted him on to her shoulders, and 
ran off with him followed by all the other women to a 
spot behind, and in a line with, the Apulia, from which it 
was distant about fift)- yards. Here she placed him sitting 
on the ground, she herself sitting behind, clasping him in 
her arms, while some J/ia and Uiviniia women sat close 
behind her. The rest of the women continued to dance in 
front of the Wurtja shouting '' pai I pai ! pai !" and making a 
irjovement of invitation by slightly lifting the hands up and 
down with the arms bent at the elbows, while moving the 
fingers as if to beckon the Wur/Ja to them. This character- 
istic movement is adopted by the women during the course of 
various ceremonies, and is always associated with the idea of 
inviting the men to come to them. 

-At the Apulia the men sat down and sang the fire song : — 

" Atnylinga clunja ilia althara wunlama,"' 

over and over again. Atuyli)iga is the red flower of a species 
of Eremojjhila, which, in the Alcheringa, was made red by 
much burning ; ctuuja is a twig of Eucalyptus ; althara means 


blazing up ; and ilia zvuntania is the term applied to a fire 
which is rushing along, like one which has been lit on a windy 
day amongst the porcupine-grass on the sand hills. This 
special song is always sung on the night preceding the pre- 
paration of the Arachitta poles, the twigs used for swathing 
which are always put through a blazing fire. 

The singing continued for about half an hour, after which 
the Urintliantinia man, as well as another Miira man and the 
Okilia in charge of the novice, ran towards the women hold- 
ing shields before their faces. The first-named seized the 
Wiirtja, and, assisted by the other two, took him back to the 
Apulia, where he was told to lie down and his face was 
covered while the singing of the fire-song continued at intervals 
all night long. As soon as the Wiirtja was taken from them 
the women ran away to the main camp. 

At daybreak the Urinthantima man rubbed the Wurtja all 
over with dry red ochre and then wound fur string round his 
head, so as to completely hide his hair from sight, while the 
other men sang — 

" Purta purta airpinta airpintina,"' 

the song sung while preparing the Arachitta poles. Piirta is 
to arrange the leaves, to settle them in their right places ; 
airpinta airpintina means round and round again. \\'hile 
this was being done the women came up to the Apulia and 
danced between the lines, backwards and forwards, in front of 
the Wurtja, making with their hands the movement of invita- 
tion and shouting "pai / pai / pai /" Suddenly the Urin- 
thantima man hoisted the Wurtja up on to his shoulders and 
ran off with him followed by a number of the younger men, 
upon which the women at once ran back to their camp and 
the singing ceased. When out of sight of the Apjilla the 
Wurtja was put down and the men proceeded to a spot about 
half a mile distant, where they made big fires and cut down 
a number of slender saplings which were to be used for 
Arachitta poles. The branches were then scorched in the 
flames while the men sang the fire-song " Atnylinga etu)ija" 
&c. When sufficient material was prepared they sat down 
and began to tie twigs on to the poles, the Wurtja assisting 


by breaking off twigs and handing them around ; but he did 
not prepare a pole himself, and during the proceedings was 
never once spoken to. While at work the men sang '^ pufta 
purta airpinta airpintina," and it was afternoon before the 
poles, about thirty in number and each about ten feet in 
length, were ready. Then a start was made for the Apulia 
ground, the poles being carried to a spot about two hundred 
yards from the Apulia, where they were stacked. Here, 
assisted by the boy's Okilia, the Urinthantima man tied twigs 
of Eremophila on to the Wurtjds bod)' and head and then 
signalled to the men at the Apulia that they were ready, 
whereupon they moved away from the ground and shouted 
to the women who were waiting at some little distance out of 
sight. The women at once ran up and took possession of the 
Apulia, carrying shields and shouting "' pai ! pai I pai .'" On 
the ground the}' stood with their backs to the men's brake 
and their faces towards the west, from which direction the 
Wtirtj'as party was coming. As the latter approached the 
women began dancing up and down the lines, making the 
movement of invitation and all the time holding their shields 
against their breasts. The party, led by the Urinthantima 
man, approached at a run, with the Wurtja concealed in the 
centre. Each man carried several pieces of bark which, as 
they came close at hand, were thrown at the women while 
the men shouted loudly " ivJiirra" and the women shielded 
their faces. At close quarters a final volley of pieces of bark 
was the signal to the women to go, which they did, running 
away pell mell, their pace accelerated by the vehement shout- 
ing of the men who were standing about in all directions 
away from the Apulia, to which they returned as soon as the 
women had gone. The bushes were taken off the Wurtja b}' 
the Urinthantima and Okilia, and he was told to remain in 
a crouching position. 

The Apulia ground was now carcfull)' cleaned, and the 
Wurtja' s brake removed to within a few yards of the western 
end of the path, after which a council, in which Oknia, 
Okilia and Gammona took part, was held, the object being to 
appoint another official known as Wulya, whose duty was 
that of painting a design on the back of the Wurtja. The 


choice of the design is left entire!}- to the IVulja, but it must 
be one of the Ilkinia, that is, the series of designs emblematic 
of the totems, and he is expected also to choose one belong- 
ing to a totem group of his own locality. During this con- 
ference two Okilia had been sitting opposite to one another, 
and as soon as the choice had been made, one of them 
smoothed over the ground between them, and then the other, 
who in this instance belonged to the same locality as the 
Wtirtja, crossed over and sat down between the legs of the 
first man. Then a man, Gamniona to, and of the same 
locality as the Wiirtja, stepped out and brought back the old 
man who was Ipmunna to the Wiirtja, and upon whom the 
choice had fallen. He came with well-simulated reluctance, 
as if he felt himself overpowered with the honour thus 
conferred upon him, and sat down in front of the two Okilia 
in the space vacated by the man who had crossed over. 
When he was seated, the front one of the two Okilia took up 
a boomerang, and with much deliberation drew the flat side 
three times steadih- along the ground, thus making a smooth 
little trench, out of which he scooped a little soil, and then, 
shuffling along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the 
Ipnuinna man. Then he embraced him and rubbed his head 
against the old man's stomach. Then the other Okilia, the 
Ganimona and the Oknia, in the order named, embraced the 
old man. The latter belonged to a northern localit}', and in 
choosing him a well-recognised compliment had been paid 
both to himself and to his local group, as the JJ'ur(/a belonged 
to a southern group of the tribe. A somewhat unusual occur- 
rence now took place. The old Ativia atzvia man, who had 
been appointed to perform the actual operation of circumcision, 
came up and held a whispered conversation with the newly 
appointed Wnlya, the gist of which was that he was an old 
man, that his e\-esight was failing, and that he desired the 
consent of the council who determined these matters to 
depute his duties to his son. This necessitated a long whis- 
pered consultation, not that there was any serious objection 
to the proposal ; indeed the old man is regarded as so great a 
man in the tribe, being recognised as an oknirabata, that 
no one would dream of opposing his wish in a matter such as 



this, but simply because anything hke hasty action, in connec- 
tion with an affair of m}'stcrious import Hke one of the 
initiation ceremonies, would be completely out of keeping 
with the feelings of the natives. It was decided to grant the 
request, and the son was then called up, and after another 
whispered conversation the council broke up. When this was 
over, all the men began to decorate themselves with various 
patterns, which had no sjjecial significance ; the two Atwia 
atwia were prominently painted on the face, and their cheeks 
were blackened with charcoal, so that they were easily 
distinguishable from the others. The Witrtja remained 
crouching at his brake for some little time, after which the 
newly appointed IVu/j'a, together with the two men of the 
same name who had done the first painting, came ujd to him 
and began to paint on his back a design of the Okranina 
or carpet snake totem of a place called Tharlinga, away to 
the north in the Hanns range, that is, in the localit)' of the 
man who did the painting, but it must be remembered 
that there was no obligation upon the man to paint a design 
of either his own or the boy's totem. As a matter of fact, the 
totem of the Wnrtja was a grass seed aiifl that of the j^ainter 
a crow. The design, which occupied the greater part of the 
boy's back, was done in white pipe-cla)', and before com- 
mencing to draw it, the newh' appointed ll'idja rubbed the 
boy over with grease while he explained to his two com- 
panions the nature of the design which he intended to paint. 
All three men took ])art in the flrawing, which consisted of a 
few concentric circles in the centre, with corkscrew-like lines 
around. The circles rej^resented the snake's hole in the 
ground, and the other lines were supposed to be snakes play- 
ing round the hole. While the painting proceeded, and it 
was done with great deliberation, occujn'ing more than an 
hour, the old Ipvinnna man sang in a low monotonous voice 
about the snakes of Tharlinga. When at length it was 
finished an Okilia of the Jl'/^rZ/'^^'-vlocality came up and placed 
in his hair two bunches of owl feathers, and then, going 
awa\' again, he brought the two Atuna atwia to inspect the 

At this stage the men who had jM'eviously made the 


Arachitta poles ran away from the Apulia, shouting, " Pai J 
pai ! pai ! " and brought the poles back with them from 
where they had been deposited. When within about fifty 
yards of the Wiirtja they separated into two parties, one 
crossed in front of him from left to right, and the other from 
right to left, and the poles were deposited about twent}' }-ards 
to either side of him ; what was the meaning of this cannot 
be said, the native explanation as usual being that it was thus 
done in the Alcheringa. Possibly it may be associated in 
some way with the division of the tribe into two moieties, but 
there was no evidence of this so far as the actual constitution 
of the two parties was concerned, that is, members of one 
moiety did not go to one side and members of the other to 
the other. 

Just before dusk two Okilias went out and stood, one on 
the eastern end of each of the raised banks, with their arms in 
a somewhat curious attitude, the palm of the hand being 
turned so that it faced backwards and the elbow bent, so that 
the hand lay in the arm- pit. The Urinthantinia man went 
and sat down in the place usually occupied by the Wtirtja 
when he was watching a ceremony, while the other men 
seated around him sang, " Ehinja apirra arara " — " Hark to the 
lizards in the tree." At a signal from an old Jllui^a man, the 
women, who were waiting out of sight, came and stood in two 
groups, one to the left and one to the right of the Apulia. It 
may be mentioned that here again the separation had no 
reference to the classes, though there are certain occasions 
during some of the ceremonies connected with initiation when 
this separation does take place. As soon as the women 
arrived the two Okilias came down from the bank, ran to the 
Wurtja's brake and quickly tore down the bushes which hid 
him from view, so that he was seen crouching down. The 
Okilias then knelt down, one on either side of him, and 
the three at once ran quickly, on all fours, to the Apulia, 
where the Wiirtja lay down on top of the Urinthantinia, who 
was himself lying down on his back. In this position the two 
remained for about ten minutes. While this was taking place 
a woman who was Mia to the Wurtja came and sat down 
behind one of the Oknia, while two others sat behind two 

R 2 


Other Oknia. At the same time the men who had brouL^ht in 
the AracJiitta poles, and were about to wear them attached 
to their legs, were busil)- engaged, with the assistance of other 
men and some of the women, in fastening them on. At the 
end of the ten minutes the Urhit/ianfima man wriggled out 
from underneath the bo\', who remained l\'ing face down- 
wards on the ground. The old I/>iiinnna stood close h\\ 
explaining the design on the back of the Wurtja, and after a 
time called up two old women, who, like himself, were 
Ipinunna ^ to the bo\', to come up and rub out the design. 
The)- came forwards with apparent reluctance, though in 
reality highly honoured b}- being thus chosen, and, stoojjing 
down, effaced the drawing b\' rubbing it over with their 

The men with the AracJiitta poles were now read}- to 
come on to the Apulia, and there, with the poles attached to 
their ankles, the)- ran up and down between the banks, 
dancing and singing, while the women, shouting, followed 
them all about, stripping the lea\es as they did so from off 
the poles. It was now dark, but piling the two brakes, which 
had served their purpose and would not be used again, on top 
of one another, the whole mass was set on fire,- and the flames 
lighted up a scene of the weirdest description possible, on 
which the Wurtja looked in silence apparently quite unmoved. 
Suddenly the old ]\Iura man gave out a great roar, the 
dancing ceased, and, followed b}' menacing shouts from the 
men, the women made haste back to their own camp, while 
from all sides the sound of bull-roarers was heard. At this 
signal the Wurtja was laid down on his back, and some of the 
Oknia and Okilia men, taking up a number of the AracJiitta 
poles, stacked them on top of him, lifting them up and down 
as if beating time with them on his bod)-, while they all sang 
wildly : — 

" Ingwa alkirna alkirni li 
Urtnanthi alkirli inipara." 

' The Iptiiiiuna men and women belong to the sub-class into which the novice's 
children will pass. 

- Roth describes the brake of lx)ughs used during the ceremony, and called 
errtilli, as l>eing burnt at the close of the proceedings, loc. cit., p. 171. 




higwa means night or darkness ; alkirna, twilight ; alkirni li, 
a great clear light ; iirtJiajithi, a lot of trees growing close 
together ; alkirli, like the sky ; impara, rising red like the sun. 

FIG. 41.- 


All was now excitement ; the fire was giving out a brilliant 
light, and the two Atwia atwia men took up a position at the 
western end of the Apulia path. With their beards thrust 
into their mouths, their legs widely extended and their arms 


stretched forwards, the two men stood perfectly still, the 
actual operator in front and his assistant pressing close up 
behind him. so that their bodies were in contact with each 
other. The front man held in his extended right hantl the 
small flint knife with which the operation was to be conducted, 
and, as soon as they were in position, the Ikuntcra man, who 
was to act as shield bearer, came down the lines, carrxing the 
shield on his head and at the same time snapping the thumb 
and first finger of each hand. Then, facing the fire, he knelt 
drtwn on one knee just a little in front of the operator, holding 
his shield above his head. During the whole time the bull- 
roarers were sounding all round so loudl\- that the)' could 
easily be heard b\- the women and children in their camp, 
and by them it is supposed that the roaring is the \oice 
of the great spirit Tti'atij'irika, who has come to take the boy 

The AracJiitta poles were then quickly removed from the 
top of the Wuj-tja, and he was at once lifted up by Okilia 
and Oknia men, who ran, carrying him feet foremost, and 
placed him on the .shield. Then in deep, loud tones \\\q Lartna 
song was sung, indeed almost thundered out, by the men : — 

" Irri yulta yulta rai 
Ul katchera ul katch ar-arai 
Irri yuha yulta rai 
Ul katchera ul katch ai.'" 

The assi.sting Ativia atwia at once grasped the foreskin, 
pulled it out as far as possible and the operator cut it off, and 

' The sound of the bull-roarer is l)elieve(l by the women to be the voice of the 
spirit T'Manyivika, who has taken the lx)y away from them into the bush. This 
spirit, they are told, lives in wild and inaccessible regions, and only comes out 
when a youth is initiated. He enters the body of the boy after the operation and 
takes him away into the bush until he is better, when the spirit goes away and the 
lK>y returns, but now as an initiated man. Both uninitiated youths and women 
are taught to iK-Iieve in the existence of Twanytrika. This belief is fundamentally 
the same as that found in all Australian tribes. Amongst the Kurnai, for example, 
as related by Mr. Howitt, the sound of the liull-roarer is the voice of Tutidiiii, who 
himself conies down to make the boys into men. Amongst certain other tribes of 
the south-east coast DaratitnlutC s voice is heard when the bull-roarer sounds, and 
he it is who initiates the youths by knocking out a tooth. In many tribes, such 
as the Kurnai, two bull-roarers, as described by Mr. Howitt, are sounded, a larger 
antl a smaller one, the latter representing Tiiudiin s wife, but amongst the Arunta, 
Ilpira and Luritcha there is only one, and that represents the male spirit. 





immediately, along with all the men who had acted in any 
official capacit}- during the whole course of the proceedings, 
retired out of the lighted area, while the bo}-, in a more or less 
dazed condition, was supported by his Oknia and Okilia, who 
said to him, " You have done well, }'ou have not cried out." 
Then he was led back to where the old brake had stood and 
received the congratulations of the men, and at the same time 
the blood from the wound was allowed to flow into a shield, 
which was given to him b\' a \-oung Oknia, to whom after- 
wards he will have, in return, to present an offering of food. 

While he was still bleeding an Okilia brought up some of 
the bull-roarers and, {pressing them on the wound, told him that 
it was these and not Tivanyirika which made the sound, that 
they were sacred Churinga and must never be shown or even 
mentioned to the women. To this the boy listened in silence. 
After a time, when the bleeding had diminished, he was led 
to the eastern end of the Apulia, where he stood between two 
Okilia looking towards the west, while two other Okilia, each 
taking an Aracliitta pole, mounted the bank and holding 
their poles over the path shouted Unidl}-, moving them up and 
down as lhe}'did i^o,'' Arara,arara,arara',' \\\\\c\\ is the signal 
for the officials, who had been standing on one side in the 
shade, to come on to the Apulia ground once more. This 
they did, one at a time, in the following order, though there did 
not appear to be any rule with regard to precedence, as one man 
would urge another to go uj) : — Wulya, who superintended the 
first painting; Urinthantivia \ ll'ulra, JJ'ulj'a, these two had 
assisted at the first j^ainting ; Atwia aitcia, the actual (jperator ; 
Alivia aizc'ia, the Rss\stant; /f'///j'<7,of the final painting; W'ulya^ 
the assistant of the last man ; Eluc/ia. As each man came 
up the Okilia shouted. " This is JVi/lya (and so on through 
the listj, do not mention his name," and then each of them 
embraced the bo}- in turn, pressing their bodies together.' As 
each man came up and the presentation was made, the same 
ceremony was gone through, and in turn every one of those 
who had taken any special part was named b}- the Okilia, whose 

' After this the novice must use these terms in addressing these special 
individuals, though he may not speak In any <>ne of them until such time as he 
shall have made him an offering of food. 


cry, " Arara, arara, arara',' rang out sharp!)- in the darkness, 
for the fire had now burnt down. When the presentations 
were over the oldest Okilia produced a bundle of Churinga 
(wooden ones for st;one ones are never used on this occasion), 
saying as he did so, " Here is Tivanyirika, of which you have 
heard so much, they are Churinga, and will help to heal you 
quickly ; guard them well and do not lose them, or you and 
your Mia, UngaraitcJia and Qiiitia (that is, blood and tribal 
mothers and sisters) will be killed ; do not let them out of 
your sight, do not let }'our j\Iia, Ungaraitcha and Qiiitia see 
you, obey your Okilia, who will go with you, do not eat 
forbidden food." These commands were spoken sternly, as if 
to impress them forcibly upon the novice, who stood silent 
with bent head. 

In the particular ceremony here described, as soon as these 
instructions had been given, a man who had been dispatched 
for the purpose brought on to the ground two young Ara- 
kurta who had been operated upon five or six weeks before. 
Acting on instructions from their guardian, they at once 
knelt down in front of and with their backs to the newly-made 
Arakurta, and he, being told what to do by his Okilia, took 
a Churinga from his bundle, and, holding it in both hands, 
scraped their backs with the sacred implement. This is 
called Utitiingalirviina, and places all three At'akiirta on 
equal terms and makes them friends. The two kneeling 
Arakurta were then told to go away quickly to their own 
camp, which they did. This does not, of course, frequently 
take place, but only when two operations have followed closely 
on one another. 

For some time the boy, who has now reached the stage of 
Arakurta, the term Wurtja applying to him onl}^ during the 
relatively short inter\-al between the time when he is painted 
and that at which the operation of circumcision is performed, 
remained standing over a fire, the smoke from which is sup- 
posed to be efficacious in healing his wounds. Finally he was 
taken away by a single Okilia man, in whose charge he was 
to remain until his wounds were healed and the operation of 
Ariltha was performed. On this occasion he joined the other 
two Arakurta in their camp. 


Whilst there is no fixed rule on the subject, the man who 
takes chari^e of the Arakurta is preferabl)- one to wliom the 
boy's sister has been promised, faiHn<^ such an one he ma}- be 
an Oknia, Ok Hi a or a Aliira man. 

There are certain restrictions and customs which must be 
observed by the more immediate relations of the bo)' which 
may be here noticed, as they will ser\e to show still more 
clearl)' the importance attached to the initiation cerenionies 
in the ej'es of the natives. From the time at which the boy 
receives the fire-stick broui;"]it b\' his Mia, until his complete 
recover}- from the operation of sub-incision, the JMia must 
have no intercourse with the father of the bo}-. An}- breach 
of this rule would result in the bo}- growinLj up into Ertn'a 
akiinia, a bad man, or Atiia-arpinta, that is, too much cjiven 
to sexual pleasures, while strict observance will ensure his 
growing up Ertzva mum, or a good man (using the terms 
good and bad in the native sense). 

After the presentation of the fire-stick and wuiW La rtn a has 
been performed, the Mura tualcha woman (that is, the future 
mother-in-law of the boy) is tabu to the actual Mia, o\\ 
if she be dead, to the Mia who hands to her the fire- 
stick. When Lartiia has been performed, the Mura tualcha 
woman goes to the camp of the Mia, and, approaching her 
from behind, rubs her all over with red ochre ; then the Mia 
hands to her a pitchi full of seed, and in this wa}- the tabu is 

\\\\\\q.X\\(i Arakurta is out in the bush the JZ/Vr ma}- not eat 
opossum, or the large lace lizard, or carpet snake, or any fat» 
as otherwise she would retard her son's recover}-. Every day 
she greases her digging-sticks and never allows them out 
of her sight ; at night time she sleeps with them close to her 
head. No one is allowed to touch them. Ever}' day also she 
rubs her bod}- all over with grease, as in some way this is 
suppo.sed to help her son's recovery. 

After the operation of Lartna, the foreskin, amongst the 
Finke River groups of natives, is handed over to the eldest 
Okilia of the boy who is present, and he also takes charge of 
the shield in the haft of which the blood from the wound was 
collected. The piece of skin he and then gives to a 


boy who is the }-ounger brother of the Arakurta, and tells 
him to swallow it, the idea at the present day being that it 
will strengthen him and cause him to grow tall and strong. 
The shield is taken b\" the Okilia to his camp, where he hands 
it over to his Unazoa, or wife, and she then rubs the blood 
over the breasts and foreheads of women who are 3Iza 
alkulla, that is, elder sisters of the bo}-'s actual Mia and 
Ungaraitcha, or elder sisters of the bo}'. 

These women must not on any account touch the blood 
themselves, and after rubbing it on, the woman adds a coat of 
red ochre. The actual Mia is never allowed to see the blood. 

Amongst some groups of Western x^runta the foreskin is 
presented to a sister of the Arakurta, who dries it up, smears 
it with red ochre, and wears it suspended from her neck. 

The Ceremony of Head Biting. 

While \.\\Q. Arakurta is out in the bush the men go and visit 
him occasionally, and on these occasions he has to undergo a 
painful rite called Koperta kakuma, or head biting. He is 
placed, lying face downwards, while men of all classes sit round, 
singing about the biting of the head of the Arakurta and 
urging the biters to bite deepl}-. The men who are to do the 
biting and who may be of any class and are usually from two 
to five in number, are chosen, on each occasion on which the 
operation is performed, by the oldest Okilia of the Arakurta. 
Their duty is to bite the scalp as hard as they can, until blood 
flows freely, the patient often howling with pain. Each man 
may content himself with one bite or he may bite two or even 
three times. The object of this real)}' painful operation is, so 
they say, to make the hair grow strongl}% and at times the 
chin may be bitten as well as the scalp. 

The Ceremony of Sub-incision or Ariltha. 

As a general rule there is an interval of about five or six 
weeks between the ceremony of Lartna and that of Ariltha, 
but at times it may be even longer, and it depends simply 
upon the length of time occupied by the recovery of the boy 
from the effects of the first operation. 


The operation of Ariltha is regarded as of at least equal 
importance with that of circumcision, and, unlike the latter, 
the women are completely excluded and not allowed to take 
an)' part. 

The particular ceremony now to be described took place 
when the operation was performed upon the two Araknrta to 
whom reference was made in the account of the Lartiia 
ceremony. One of them belonged to the Purula and the 
other to the Kumura class. As a general rule the operation 
is only performed on one Araknrta at a time, but this is a 
matter of no importance and simply depends upon whether 
or not more than one boy has recently undergone the earlier 
ceremony of Lartna and is ready for this second one. We 
have never heard of the operation being performed upon more 
than two at the same time and even this is not of very 
common occurrence. 

When the ceremony was to take place the men assembled 
at the camp of the Araknrta, out in the bush, where they had 
been living away from every one else since the last operation 
had been performed on them. They were under the charge 
of an Okilia, and when the men had assembled the two 
Araknrta, who were not informed of what was about to 
happen, though very probabl}- they were perfectly well aware, 
when all the men assembled, that something further was in 
store for them, were told to lie flat down on the ground. 
Then their heads were covered over and all the young men of 
the same two sub-classes as the Araknrta were made to lie 
down beside them, though they had of course all of them 
passed through the ceremony before, as none but initiated men 
are allowed to be present on an occasion such as this. The 
older Kumara and Purula and all the Bukhara and Panunga 
men gathered together and for hours sang of the Achilpa 
men belonging to the group which marched north by way of 
Ilenburyon the Finke River. During the night there was 
performed first a Quabara belonging to the Achilpa (wild cat) 
totem, and at the close of the performance the two Araknrta 
joined in the dance round the performers. When it was over 
they were told who the individuals were with whom the 
Ouabara was concerned, they were also told that they must 


not speak of it to women and children, and then it was 
explained to them that certain Ouabara belonged to particular 
groups of men who alone had the right to perform them. 
Later on during the night another Ouabara was performed, 
this time concerned with the emu totem. Then once more 
they were made to lie down, while the old men went awa}- to 
a brake of boughs which had been built at a distance of about 
fifty }-ards from the spot at which the boys lay down under 
the charge of their guardian. The rest of the night was spent in 
singing over and over again a short chant concerning the 
bandicoot totem and the Niirhinja. The reason for this 
was that the Oknia and Ok ilia of the two Arakiirta, who 
formed again a kind of council to direct the proceedings, had 
requested an old bandicoot man to perform a sacred ceremony 
in which a Nnrtunja was used, as it was essential in this part 
of the tribe to have one of these in connection with the 
ceremony of ^':/r/7///rt. The old bandicoot man was a Panunga 
and belonged to the Ilpirra tribe awa}- to the north of the 
Arunta. The Xiirtioija, to which we shall ha\e occasion to refer 
frequent!)', figures largeh' in man}- of the sacred ceremonies 
and varies ver\- much in form. The one used in the present 
instance was made out of a long spear around which grass 
stalks were laid and the whole was then ensheathed with 
human hair string. It was then ornamented with alternate 
rings of red and white bird's down, while a large tuft of eagle- 
hawk feathers was fixed into the upper end. Ver\- often on 
these occasions, but not on the particular one now dealt with, 
a few Churinga are hung on to the Nurtunja. Two men, one 
of them Oknia of the Purula bo}- and the other Okilia of the 
Kumara, were decorated by the old bandicoot man to perform 
the ceremony, and just at daybreak the Arakurta were led 
from their camp and the performance began. The Ouabara 
was concerned with an Alcheringa man who lived at a place 
called Yerapinthinga and the man who personated him 
carried the Nurtimja on his back, while he mo\-ed backwards 
and forwards, towards and awa}' from another man who 
personated an Alcheringa woman, \\hom the bandicoot man 
was supposed to be attempting to catch and who warded him 
off with bushes held in the hand. After a short time the 



audience, including the two Arakurta, ran in and danced in 
front of and under the Xurtuiija which was bent over them by 
the ]jerformer, while the dancers held up their hands as if to 
catch it, shouting loudh' all the time '' IVa/i ! Walt ! " After 
this had gone on for some time, the man personating the 
woman suddcnl\- jumjDcd round on the ground where he had 

lU.. 4J. IMMl.UlAll.l.V IIKIOKK lUi: (l-KKMUNV OK AKU.lllA; llIK I WO 

remained seated all the time and turned his back on the 
Nurtunja, which was the sign for the dancing to cease. The 
Niirtuuja was taken off the perforiner's back b\' the old bandi- 
coot man to whoin it belonged and then, after scooping out 
a hole in the ground, he fixed it upright. As soon as this 
was done the two Arakurta were told by Oknia and Okilia 
men to go up to and embrace the Nurtunja, and while they 




were doing this they were told that they were about to 
undergo the rite of AriltJia and that the embracing of the 
Nurttinja, which lasted ten minutes, would pre\'ent the 
operation from being painful and that they need not be 

The oldest Okilia man now said " Who will be Tapunga ? " 
Two men volunteered, one man a Panunga and the other a 
Purula. The former at once lay on his stomach on the 


ground and the latter on the top of him, and when this kind of 
living table was ready the Kumara Arakiirta was led from 
the Niirtiinja, close to which the men had lain down, and 
then placed lying at full length on his back on top of the 
Tapunga. As soon as ever he was in position another man 
sat astride of his bod\-, grasped the penis and put the urethra 
on the stretch. The operator who is called Pininga and is 
chosen b}- the Oknia and Okilia^ then approached and 


quickly, with a stone knife, laid open the urethra from below. 
The man was an Ikiintera of the Arakuj-ta. As soon as this 
was done, the bo}- was lifted off and immediately the Purula 
Arakurta was placed in position on the same Tapioii^a and 
the same man again performed this operation. When all was 
over, the two, who had now passed be\'ond the Arakurta 
stage and wqxq Ertiua-knrka or initiated men, were led to one 
side while they squatted over shields into which the blood was 
allowed to drain. After this, Okilia men came up to them 
and tied the public tassels on, telling them that they were now 
Ertwa-kurka and that the\' had no more operations to fear 
and that they were admitted to the ranks of the men. 

After the operation of Ariltha has been performed, the 
new 1\" made Ertzua-kiirka sits down as described on a shield 
into the haft of which the blood is allowed to flow and from 
which it is emptied into the centre of a fire which is made for 
the purpose. If much pain be caused b\- the wound he will 
return to the ash heap and scooping out a little hole in the 
centre, will place therein some glowing pieces of charcoal and 
upon these he will urinate, thus causing steam to arise which 
is said to give great relief to the pain. Until the young 
man's wound has healed he is suppo.sed to lie onh* upon his 
back for otherwise the organ would grow crooked.' 

Until the Arakurta has undergone and quite recovered 
from the ceremony of sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat 
the flesh of opossum, snake, echidna and all li/.ards. 
Should he eat any of these his recover}- would be retarded 
and his wounds would become much inflamed. In addition 
to these there e.xists in the case of each individual the 
restriction with regard to the eating of his totem, and to ever)- 
one not onh' at this, but at all times, there exists the general 
restriction with regard to the eating of the wild cat. 

At the moment when the Arakurta is seized for the 
purpose of having the rite of Ariltha performed upon him the 
men set up a loud shout of '' Pi}-r-rr" — loud enough to be 

' As a result of the operation of Ariltha-kiinia, niicluriticin is always, in the 
native state, performed in a squatting position, and it is a very characteristic 
action for a little hollow to be scooped out with the hand in the soil, and then 
into this micturition takes place. 


heard by the women in their camp. The latter at once assemble 
at the Erlnkivin'a,X\\2L\. is the women's camp, and theJ//^ of the 
bo}- cuts the Uiichalknlkna woman across the stomach and 
shoulders, and then makes similar cuts upon women who are 
the boy's Mnra and elder and younger sisters, as well as upon 
those who are her own elder sisters. While making the cuts she 
imitates the sound made b}- the Ariltha part}'. These cuts, 
which generally leave behind them a definite series of cicatrices, 
are called 7irpma and are often represented by definite lines 
on the Churinga. It ver\- often happens that, as soon as the 
operation has been performed on an Arakurta, one or more 
of the younger men present, who have been operated on 
before, stand up and voluntarily undergo a second operation. 
In such cases the men do not consider that the incision has 
been carried far enough. Standing out on the clear space close 
by the Niirtiiuja, with legs wide apart and hands behind his 
back, the man shouts out '' 3Iura Ariltha atnartinja yinga 
aritchika pitchi" \ — ''Mnra mine come and cut my Ariltha 
down to the root." Then one Mnra man comes and pinions 
him from behind, while another comes up in front and seizing 
the penis first of all cuts out an oval shaped piece of 
skin which he throws awa}' and then extends the slit to the 
root. Most men at some time or other undergo the second 
operation and some come forward a third time, though a man 
is often as old as thirt}- or thirty-five before he submits to 
this second operation which is called ariltha erlitha atnartinja. 
The Ertzua-knrka carry the Churinga about with them just 
as the Araknrta did until they have completely recovered. 
When the man in charge of them announces that they are 
recovered from the eflfects of the operation, the men all 
assemble out in the bush, and the Oknia and Okilia appoint a 
man to act as what is called Irkoa-artha. It is his duty to 
remove all the decorations from the body of the Ertzva-hirka, 
after which the latter is told to lie down on his face while the 
men sing a chant, which is supposed to have the effect of 
promoting the growth of his hair, and he is told that he must 
not speak for some time to the Irkoa-artha and then not 
until he has made a present of food, which is called 
Chanrilia, to the individual in'question. 



Then the men, accompanied by the £';-/ziw-X'//;-/'^, assemble 

at some little distance from the main camp and begin to sing 

in loud tones : 

" Chuk-ur-nikerai yaa li chaakaa-a 
Vaania kank waa 
Inkwurkna inkwiirkna ainai 
Inkwurkna inkwurkna atnai." 

The women, hearing the singing, assemble near to the main 
camp and begin to dance as they did at the Apulia. The 
song of the men ceases as soon as they approach the women, 
and at a distance of about fift)' \-ards they halt and shout 
" tivra, tirra, tirra" a sound which much resembles that made 
by whirling bull-roarers and which is at once taken up by the 
women. The young Ertn'ci-kurka, who is now completely 
undecorated, steps out from the group of men, runs up close 
to the women, who continue dancing, and then suddenly 
wheels round and runs off into the bush, where he is followed 
by a number of the men who camp with him for the night, 
during which, without the performance of an}' special cere- 
mony, singing is kept up until da)'break. Before it is light 
the Ertiva-kiirka is dressed up b\' Ok ilia and Umbirna men 
with all the ornaments such as forehead band, arm strings, 
tail tips, etc., which are worn by a native beau. He is also 
provided with a shield and spear-thrower, and just about day- 
light the party starts for the main camp, the young man 
walking in the centre by the side of the Irkoa-artha man, 
while all shout loudly " tirra, tirra, tirra." When within 
about fift\' yards of the women, who are dancing and shouting 
as before, the men halt, and the Irkoa-artha leads the Ertiva- 
kurka on but only accompanies him for a few yards, after 
which he goes on alone, carrying his shield in front, so as to 
hide his face. When he comes close up to the women one 
or two UugaraitcJia, that is blood and tribal elder sisters, who 
are in the lead carr}-ing pitcJiis fall the other women carry 
tufts of rat-tails in their hands), throw the pitcJiis at his 
shield and then press their hands on his shoulders from 
behind, and also rub their faces on his back, after which they 
cut off some locks of his hair, which they afterwards use to 
make up into hair string ornaments for themselves. This 


ceremony is called anaintJialilima, and after it is over the 
Ertzi'a-kurka is free to go into the presence of the various 
officials who have taken part in any of the ceremonies, though 
he must not speak to or of them until some months have past, 
nor must he speak loudly in their presence. 

At daylight on the morning of the next day the men 
provide themselves with fire-sticks and, surrounding the young 
man, conduct him to the women, who are again waiting to 
receive him. He is fully decorated and carries a shield and 
boomerang and some twigs of Eremophila. When the party 
is within a short distance of the women the men throw down 
their fire-sticks and halt, and the young man steps out from 
the centre of the group and throws his boomerang high up 
in the direction of the spot at which his mother was supposed 
to have lived in the Alcheringa. This throwing of the 
boomerang in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, 
that is, of course, the spot at which the Alcheringa individual 
of whom his mother is supposed to be the reincarnation, 
lived, occurs during the performance of other ceremonies, 
such, for example, as those which accompan}- the knocking 
out of teeth in eastern groups of the Arunta and also in the 
Ilpirra tribe. It may in all likelihood be regarded as in- 
tended to symbolize the idea that the young man is entering 
upon manhood and thus is passing out of the control of the 
women and into the ranks of the men. The fact that he is 
using the boomerang is indicative of this, and his throwing it 
towards his mother's camp is an intimation to her of the fact 
that he is passing away from her control ; at the same time 
there remains the curious feature, the exact significance of 
which it is difficult to see, that it is thrown towards the 
Alcheringa camp rather than towards the mother herself 

After the throwing of the boomerang, the Ertiua-kurka is 
led forward b}' the Irkoa-artha man, holding, as before, his 
shield before his face, and is placed squatting on a fire which 
has been prepared by the women, and which is now covered 
by green leaves. Behind this the women stand making the 
movement of invitation already described and shouting 
" tirra, tirra, tirra" The women place their hands on his 
shoulders and gently press him down. After remaining on 

S 2 


the fire for a short time he is taken off by the Irkoa-artJia 
and handed over to a few x'ounij bo)'s who have not yet been 
initiated, and who are told to cam[) with him but on no 
account to speak to him. After three da\-s, durin^L^ which 
he speaks to no one, men who are his Okilia come out from 
the men's camp and in\ite him to join them, after which he 
becomes a permanent member of the camj:). Before, however, 
he may speak to an}- of the officials who took any part in 
the various ceremonies he must go out into the bush and 
procure game as an offering to each one of them, this gift 
being known as Chaurilia. 

At the presentation of Chaurilia the man to whom it is 
given always performs some sacred ceremonj-, after which the 
mouth of the Ertii.'a-kiirka and those of all present are 
touched with some sacred object which has been used during 
the ceremony, such as a Niirtunja, and in this way the ban of 
silence is removed. When these ceremonies ha\e been passed 
through the native is regarded as an initiated member of the 
tribe and may take part in all the sacred ceremonies of his 
group, though it is not until he has passed through the 
P2ngwurra that he becomes what is called Urliara or a fully- 
developed man. 

The following names, which ma)- be called status names, 
indicating the different grades of initiation, are applied to 
the boy, youth and man at the times indicated : — 

(i) Anibaqiierka, \\\i to the time of throwing up. 

(2) Ulpmerka, after tlic ihrowing-up ceremony and until 
that of circumcision. 

(3) Wurtja, after the first ceremony of painting in con- 
nection w ith circumcision. 

C4J Araknrta, after circumcision and before sub-incision is 

(5) Ertwa-kurka, after sub-incision and until he has passed 
through the Engwura. 

(6) Urliara, after the Kngwura has been passed through. 

In the northern part of the tribe the ceremonies agree in all 
essential points with those which have been described in the 
case of the natives li\ing along the Finke ri\er. There are 


however, certain differences in detail which may be men- 
tioned. Early on the day on which the ceremony of Lartna 
or circumcision is to commence, the Ulpmerka is taken away 
from the camp on some pretext, while the men and women 
spend the day in preparing the collected food supplies, such 
as the seeds of acacia or iminyem. Every now and then they 
break out into the monotonous chant of a corrobboree, to 
which the women, but not the men, dance, while a feeling of 
suppressed excitement throughout the camp indicates that 
some ceremony of more than ordinary importance is about to 
take place. At sundown the boy is brought into camp, and, 
unconscious of what is in store for him, spends the evening as 
usual at the men's camp, lying down to sleep there. Towards 
the middle of the night, when all is quiet, an elder brother 
of the boy, after seeing that the latter is sound asleep, wakens 
the other members of the camp, and all together, men and 
women, they go to the spot close at hand which has previously 
been selected. The women stand quietly on one side while 
the men, with as little noise as possible, clear the grass aixl 
rubbish away, and thus prepare the Apulia ground. Then all, 
except three brothers of the boy and two young women, sit 
down around the Apulia, while the five selected ones go to the 
camp to awaken and bring the boy. The two women go in 
advance, each of them carrying an Alparra, which is a 
scooped-out piece of wood such as the women use to carry 
food and water in, and, creeping quietly up to the Ulpmerka, 
suddenly strike him sharply with their Alparras, crying out 
loudly at the same time, " Utchai'l Utchai ! " The boy. 
naturally dazed and startled, springs to his feet, when the 
three men take hold of him, and tell him that the time has 
come when he must no longer remain an Ulpmerka, but must 
be made into a man — an Ertwa-kurka. So soon as the cry 
of" Utchai'' is heard the men begin to sing and the women 
to dance. 

The subsequent proceedings, including the painting by 
Uiuilia men and the handing of the fire-stick by an Utichal- 
kulkna woman, though there may be more than one of these, 
are much the same as those already described. On the day 
on which the actual operation is to be performed there is, 


however, a slight variation in the procedure. After being 
ornamented with twigs of Eucalyptus, two rows of spears are 
fixed upright, one row on either side of the Apulia path. 
They form a kind of grove, with the path running between 
them. About midday, when all is read}', some of the men 
leave the camp to go and bring the boy in. When the signal 
of their return with the bo)', who is hidden out of sight of the 
women, is given, then the latter at once go in between the 
line of spears, and, while some of the older men sing, perform 
the UntJiippa dance, and then, standing by the poles, strip 
these of their leaves. As the men with the boy approach 
they all throw pieces of bark at the women, a signal to them 
to disperse and go to their camp, out of sight of the Apulia. 
The boy is placed at one end of the path behind a brake 
of boughs, of which, in this instance, only one and not two, as 
described before, is made. At night the women are brought 
back, and sit on either side of the path at the base of the 
stripped spears. Two Okilia go to where the boy is as yet 
hidden from the women, throw on one side the boughs, and 
then, accompanied b}- the Ulpmerka, hop down the path 
until they have traversed half its length, when they diverge, 
one to the right and one to the left, while the boy goes on 
until he collides with a man who has been purposely placed 
.so that he shall do this. This man is here called Tapunga, 
and at once he rolls over on to his back, and the boy lies on 
the top of him. Silence is now maintained by all. In this 
position the painting is rubbed off the Ulpvierkas back. 
Then the Arachitta poles are brought in, and as the men 
dance the women strip the poles, which are tied on to the 
legs as described. The men remain calm, but the women 
grow wilder and wilder, singing : — 

" .\lnintu rappira ka pcrka-a-a 
Ok nar inla 
\'iir a puncha kwi 
Vur a puncha kwi." 

Whilst this is in progress the boy gets off the man's back and 
sits up watching the dance, which suddenly ceases when the 
.sound of a bull-roarer is heard. At once the women run off, 
and very shortly after the operation is performed. Inthisdis- 


trict the man who holds the shield is termed the Urinthantima, 
and he must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which the 
bo}- does not. The operation is almost always performed by 
a man who is Ikuntera to the bo}-, and who is assisted by one, 
or it ma}- be two men, who are called Killarina, and who must 
also belong to the other moiety of the tribe. When all is 
over the boy is given a bundle of Churinga and sent out 
in charge of a man as previousl\- described, until he has 
recovered, and is ready for the further operation. 

The rite of sub-incision, which ma}- be said to be charac- 
teristic of the great group of tribes occupying the interior parts 
of Queensland,^ New South Wales, and South Australia, right 
away to the far north, and at all events a very large part of 
West Australia,- has frequenth- been alluded to by Curr and 
other writers under the name of the " terrible rite " — a term 
which, as Dr. Stirling suggested, ma}- well be discarded. It 
consists, as is well known, in sub-incision of the penis, so that 
the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to 
the junction with the scrotum. It is certain!}- a most extra- 
ordinar}- practice, and one which it might be thought would 
be frequently attended with serious results ; but none such ap- 
parently ever follow, though in their native condition the 
operation is performed merel}- with a sharp chipped piece 
of flint or a small knife made of a hard flaked quartzite. The 
Arunta natives have no idea as to the origin of the practice, 
and it seems almost useless to speculate upon it. Mr. Roth 
has suggested that the mutilation of the women, which takes 
place, so far as is known, in all those tribes where sub-incision 
is practised by the men, was indirectl}- the origin of the latter, 
" that, on the principle of a form of mimicr}-, the analogous 
sign was inflicted on the male to denote corresponding fitness 
on his part." This still leaves unexplained the mutilation of 
the women, and it would seem to be almost simpler to imagine 
that this was a consequence of the mutilation of the men. 

1 Cf. Roth, loc. cit. 

- Mr. A. Morton, who has recently been engaged in anthropological work in 
WesfAustralia, informs us that the operation is universally carried out amongst the 
trills with whom he came in contact. See also Helms. Trans. Roy. Soc. South 
Australia, vol. xvi., p. 276. 


In the Arunta tribe tradition ascribes the origin of the custom 
to the members of the wild cat totem and points clearly to 
the fact that it was introduced by the members of some 
powerful group at a time subsequent to the introduction of 
the rite of circumcision. 

One thing is clear, and that is that at the present day, and 
as far back as their traditions go, the Arunta natives at least 
have no idea of its having been instituted with the idea of its 
preventing or even checking procreation. In the first place 
it does not do this. Every man without exception throughout 
the Central area, in all tribes in which the rite is practised, is 
sub-incised. Under the normal conditions he must be before 
he is allowed to take a wife, and infringement of this rule 
would simply mean death to him if found out. Though 
it is true that the number of children rarely exceeds four 
or perhaps five in a family, and, as a general rule, is less still, 
perhaps two or three, yet the of this is not sub-incision. 
It is infanticide which is resorted to for the of keeping 
down the number of a family. And here we may say that 
the number is kept down, not with an}- idea at all of regu- 
lating the food supply, so far as the adults are concerned, but 
simply from the point of view that, if the mother is suckling 
one child, she cannot properly provide food for another, quite 
apart from the question of the trouble of carr^-ing two children 
about. An Australian native never looks far enough ahead 
to consider what will be the effect on the food supply in future 
years if he allows a particular child to live ; what affects him 
is simply the question of how it will interfere with the work 
of his wife .so far as their own camp is concerned ; while from 
the woman's side the question is, can she provide food enough 
for the new-born infant and for the next youngest ? 

The Arunta native does not hesitate to kill a child — 
always directly it is born — if there be an older one still in 
need of nourishment from the mother, and suckling is con- 
tinued up to the age often of three years or even older. 
With an solution, which moreover he does not 
hesitate to practise, of the difficulty arising from the birth of 
too man)- children, it is scarcely conceivable that the men 
should deliberately pass through a mf)st ])ainfnl ordeal 


with the idea of achieving a result which can be obtained 
otherwise without pain or trouble to themseh-es, and when 
also they know perfectly well that the desired result is not 
obtained by the performance of the operation. Added to this 
we have amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, and Ilpirra tribes, and 
probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, the 
idea firmly held that the child is not the direct result of 
intercourse, that it may come without this, which merely, 
as it were, prepares the mother for the reception and birth 
also of an already-formed spirit child who inhabits one of the 
local totem centres. Time after time we have questioned 
them on this point, and always received the reply that the 
child was not the direct result of intercourse ; so that in these 
tribes, equally with those dealt with by Mr. Roth, the practice 
of sub-incision cannot be attributed to the desire to check 
procreation by this means. 

In the south of the Arunta tribe the ceremonies again are 
somewhat different from these, both in the west and in the 
east. At Charlotte Waters, for example, the following is an 
account, in outline, of what takes place. 

When the time arrives for a boy to be initiated, his Okilia 
talks to men who are Unibirna to the boy and arranges with 
two of them to carry out the first part of the proceedings. 
Towards evening the two Umbirna go to the bo\', who has no 
idea of what has been arranged, and one of them takes hold 
of him while the other comes up from behind, carrying a 
special small white stone called apcrta irrkurra, which he 
puts under the armpit of the boy. Then taking hold of him, 
one by each arm, they take him along with them to the camp 
of his mother and father. Here, by previous arrangement, 
the different members of the camp are assembled. All the 
men sit in a roughly semi-circular group, and together with 
them are women who stand in the relationship of Mia and 
Uwinna to the boy. The latter, with an Umbirnia man on 
either side of him, is then told to He down in front of the 
group, and behind him again are gathered together the 
women who are Ungaraitclia, Itia, Unaivazw^S. Unkulla\.o\\\Ti\. 
These women commence to dance to the singing of the men, 
and when this has gone on for some little time they retire 


behind the group of men, and then the boy is allowed to go 
to sleep, watched over during the night by the two Uuibirna 
who are called Ukarkhija. The latter wake him earl\- and, 
after t}-ing up his hair with whitened string, decorate it with 
tufts of eagle-hawk feathers. When this has been done the 
boy is called Au-aritcha. This over, the boy's Ungaraitclia 
and Itia bring him food in the shape of niuuyeni or grass seed, 
of which he eats some and gives the rest to his two Uuibirna. 
Then, if she be present, tht'Mitra woman whose daughter has 
been allotted as wife to the boy, or, in her absence, the 
Uvibirna men, paint him all over with red ochre. After this, 
the further ceremonies may either be carried out on the spot 
or else the boy ma\- be taken away to a different local group, 
where the first part of the ceremonies will then be performed. 
There does not appear to be any rule in regard to this. In 
the event of the boy being taken awa)', he goes under the 
charge of the same two Uvibirna men, wearing, as he walks, 
his hair-string, and carrying the stone under his arm. On 
approaching the strange camp the men call out ^^ Paul Pan!" 
sharply and loudh', while at the same time each of them 
swings backwards one of the boy's arms. The strangers 
recognise what is happening, and the men get up, leave the 
camp near to which the visitors have halted, and while the 
women lie down in camp they come out to meet the three. 
The hair-string and stone are then taken away from the boy, 
who is thrown uj3 in the air by the strangers, who catch and 
strike him as he falls. This throwing up is called An-ai-itcha 
iivnina. When this is over the stone is given back to the 
bo)', but the hair-string is given to the strangers. The boy 
himself has to go some little distance away and may not be 
spoken to by the women, though the men go near and speak 
to him freely. 

IVeparations are then made for the return to the home 
camp, all the men and women coming, while the boy, with 
his two Uvibirna, walks behind. At some little distance from 
the spot at which the men have, during the bo}''s absence, made 
the camp at which the operation of Lartna will be performed, 
a halt is made, and here the bo)- and the two Uvibirna stay 
bcinnd for the [)urpose of painting his bod}' with white pipe- 


clay, tying up his hair and putting on the waist band which 
he now wears for the first time. The strangers, marching on, 
announce their approach by the usual sharp cry ''Pan! Pan!'' 
The resident old men and women are sitting down at the camp, 
but the young men have to go away, to some little distance, 
so as not to be seen as yet by the bo}'. At first the strangers 
sit down in the customary wa\- at a short distance from the 
camp, which they do not enter until, at a later time, the}' are 
invited to do '=0 by the older men. When i\\Q Au-ariUha and 
the Umbirna come up they take a position in front of the 
strangers and between them and the resident group. After a 
short pause the bo}''s Ungaraitcha come out and give him 
food, and then, together with his two guardians, he returns to 
the bush, which is the signal for the )-ounger men to come 
from their hiding place and join the strange group, the 
members of which come into camp usually about dusk. 

In the evening the same women dance as on the previous 
occasion, the dance being called IlcJiilcha-intiini zvntha- 
perrima. The dance is repeated during the course of the 
following evening, and during the two da\-s whilst the boy is 
out of the camp there takes place both a lending and an inter- 
change of women, the usual class restrictions being, however, 
observed. Two men belonging to the resident group will, for 
example, determine without saying anything previously to 
two visiting men to lend their wives each to one of the latter. 
During the dance these two men will get up from the group 
of men watching the dance, and each one taking a fire-stick 
will give it to his wife, who is amongst the dancers. The 
woman knows what this means and retires to some distance. 
Then the two men return to the main group, and each going 
behind the man to whom he desires to show attention, either 
in return for some past act of kindness or in anticipation of 
favours to come, lifts him up by his elbows and informs 
him of his intention. The exchange, or lending, is merely a 
temporary one, and in this instance only takes place between 
those who are Unaiua to each other. 

When the two days are over the boy is brought back and 
the women are sent awa\- from the camp where the dancing 


has taken place and where the operation of Lartna will 
shortly be performed. As in the case of the south-western 
or the Larapinta groups already referred to, various cere- 
monies are performed in which a Waninga is used, and 
this the boy is made to embrace before the operation is 
performed. When this is about to take place, the boy is 
told to lie down on the ground while an Okilia puts his hand 
over the former's eyes, and a man who is Unkulla to the boy 
goes away to some little distance. While this takes place, a 
few, ])erha]Ds half a dozen, men lie down on the ground so as 
to form a kind of table, and when the Okilia lifts his hand 
from his eyes the boy sees the Unkulla man approaching at 
a run. This man places him on the top of the prostrate men, 
whom the boy afterwards calls innitmvura, and at once the 
operation is performed by an Ikuntera man whom the boy 
calls urtzui-iirtivia. The Okilia stand by shouting " araktoirra, 
anindertna " — " You be quiet, do not cr\'." 

As always, the blood is collected in a shield and is handed 
over to the Okilia, who thereupon makes a hole in the ground 
and buries in this the blood and the foreskin ; then small 
stones are jDut on top of the latter, and the hole is filled 
with sand, on the surface of which a short piece of stick, 
perhaps six inches long, is laid down horizontally. This 
stick is called Ultlia, and neither the boy who has been 
operated upon nor yet any woman, may go near to it. 

When the operation of Lartna is over, the boy is called 
Atmtrrinia. As soon as he has recovered, the operation of 
Ariltha is performed in much the same manner as already 
described, except that in this southern district no Nurtunja is 
made. The men who lie down on the ground are called 
Atraputiituvi ; the Utikulla man who sits on the boy's chest 
is called Ikwarta, and the Ikuntera man \\\\o performs the 
ceremony is called Pininya. It is usual during the ceremony 
for the Unkulla man to take off his hair girdle and to lay 
it down close beside the boy with the object of preventing 
too great a flow of blood. 

After the operation of Ariltha the novice is called Allal- 
luniba. When it is over he is taken out into the bush by 


an Okilia who ma)- be accompanied by a Gainviona man, 
and after recovery his bod}- is painted white, the hair-string 
girdle and the pubic tassel are put on, he is brought up to 
the men's camp and then taken on to where, close to the 
Ei'lnkzvirra, the women are waiting. The throwing of a 
boomerang, the meeting between the boy and his Ungaraitcha, 
when the latter hit him on the back, and the smoking of the 
novice are carried out in essentiall}- the same wa\' as already 
described. When all this is over, the novice returns with 
the men to their camp, and during the night a ceremony 
concerned with the owl totem is always performed ; why 
this is so we have not been able to discover. For some time 
the newly initiated man ma}- not speak to any of the men or 
women who have taken part as officials in any of the cere- 
monies, but, as previousl}' described, the ban of silence is 
ultimately removed after he has presented to each one 
separately an offering of food. 

In regard to the initiation ceremonies of women, it is clear 
that, as was first shown b}- Roth, there are certain ceremonies 
which are evidenth- the equivalents of the initiation cere- 
monies concerned with the men. Such ceremonies occur, 
though not to such an extent as described by Mr. Roth, in 
the Central tribes. The first one takes place when the girl's 
breasts are rubbed with fat and red ochre, and the second, when 
the operation of opening the vagina is performed. This is 
clearl}- regarded as the equivalent of sub-incision in the male, 
the name of the latter ceremony being pnra ariltha kujua, 
while in the case of the woman it is called atna ariltJia 
kuina. There is no special name given to a female after 
an}- initiation rite. Up to the first menstrual period she is 
called quiai, the ordinar}- name for a girl, just as zviai is the 
ordinar}- name for a boy ; after that she is called wuupa, a 
name which she retains until the breasts hang pendent, after 
which she is called arakutja, the ordinary term for a grown 
woman. The first ceremony ma}- perhaps be regarded as 
the equivalent of the throwing up and painting of the boys, 
there being amongst the women no equivalents of the Lartna 
(circumcision) or Engwura ceremonies of the men. 


We have described the ceremonies attendant on what may 
be called the initiation of women, the first in connection with 
other ceremonies peculiar to women,^ the second in the 
chapter dealing with the social organisation, as it has im- 
portant bearings upon this, and ma}' be most conveniently 
dealt with in connection therewith. 

1 Cf. Chapter XII. 

Initiation Ceremonies {continued) 


Five phases of the Engwura — Summoning the members of the tribe to the 
Engwura — Plan of the ground on which the ceremonies were held — Division 
of the tribe into two moieties— Disposal of theChuringa in two corresponding 
groups — General remarks on the ownership and names of the ceremonies — 
Control of the Engwura — First phase — Performance of two ordinary corrob- 
borees — Passing on of corrobborees from one group to another — Building oi 
the Parra on the Engwura ground — Separation of the younger men from the 
women — Second phase — Performance of sacred ceremonies — Description of 
the last eight days of the second phase — The making of a Niirtunja — Examin- 
ation of Churinga — "Singing" the ground — \'arious ceremonies — Handing 
over of Churinga which had been taken care of by a neighbouring group 
during the temporary extinction of the group to which they belonged — The 
making and meaning of a lVa)iinga — Making the younger men abmoara to 
certain of the older ones — The younger men are now called Illpoiig^uiirra. 

The Engwura, or, as it is called in some parts of the tribe, 
Urumpilla, is in reality a long series of ceremonies concerned 
with the totems, and terminating in what may be best de- 
scribed as ordeals by fire, which form the last of the initiatory 
ceremonies. After the native has passed through these he 
becomes what is called Urliara, that is, a perfectly developed 
member of the tribe. We cannot fully translate the meaning 
of either term, but each of them is formed, in part, of the 
word ura, which means fire. The natives themselves say 
that the ceremony has the effect of strengthening all who 
pass through it. It imparts courage and wisdom, makes the 
men more kindly natured and less apt to quarrel ; in short, it 
makes them ertiva murra oknirra, words which respectively 
mean " man, good, great or very," the word good being, of 
course, used with the meaning attached to it by the native. 


Kvidently the main objects of it are, firstly, to bring the 
)oung men under the control of the old men, whose com- 
mands they have to obej- implicitly ; secondl)-, to teach them 
habits of self-restraint and hardihood ; and thirdl}', to show 
to the younger men who have arrived at mature age, the 
sacred secrets of the tribe which are concerned with the 
Churinga and the totems with which the)' are associated. 

The Kngwura ma\- be performed in various places, but, as 
it is a ceremony at which men and women gather together 
from all parts of the tribe, and sometimes also from other 
tribes, a central position is preferred if it be intended to carry 
it out on a large scale. It is, indeed, a time when the old 
men from all parts of the tribe come together and discuss 
matters. Councils of the elder men arc held da)' b)' da}', b}' 
which we do not mean that there is anj'thing of a strictly 
formal nature, but that constanth' groups of the elder men 
ma}' be seen discussing matters of tribal interest ; all the old 
traditions of the tribe are repeated and discussed, and it is by 
means of meetings such as this, that a knowledge of the un- 
written history of the tribe and of its leading members is 
passed on from generation to generation. Not onl}' this, but 
while the main effect is undoubtedl}' to preserve custom, }'ct, 
on the other hand, changes introduced in one part of the 
tribe (and, despite the great conser\atism of the native such 
changes do take place; can by means of these gatherings, 
become generally adopted in much less time than would be 
the case if they had to slowly filter through, as it were, from 
one locality to another. 

Some idea of the importance of the ceremon}' ma}' be 
gathered from the fact that the one which wc witnessed com- 
menced in the middle of September, and continued till the 
middle of the succeeding January, during which time there 
was a constant succession of ceremonies, not a day passing 
without one, while there were sometimes as many as five or 
si.v within the twent}'-four hours. They were held at various 
liours, always one or more during the daylight, and nr)t in- 
frcqucntl}' one or two during the night, a favourite time being 
just before sunrise. 

Whilst the whole series of ceremonies followed one another 

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without a break, yet there were five clearly marked phases, 
each of which was characterised by certain important features 
peculiar to it, and these phases we will describe in succession. 
They may be briefly outlined as follows : — 

Phase I. Sending out the messengers. Assembling of the 
tribe. Performance of introductory corrobborees. Building 
of the Parra on the Engwura ground, and the commencement 
of the sacred ceremonies. The characteristic feature of this 
phase is the holding of ordinary dancing corrobborees at 
night-time, in which the women take part. When once 
these are over, which takes place between two and three 
weeks from the start, the women take no further share until 
close to the end of the ceremonies. 

Phase 2. The men are separated from the women and live 
on the P3ngwura ground, where sacred ceremonies are per- 
formed day and night. This extends over, perhaps, six 
weeks, and lasts until the men who are being initiated are 
made abmoara to certain elder men who take charge of 
them. After this they are called Illpongwurra. 

Phase 3. The sacred ceremonies are continued, the Illpong- 
wurra being distinguished by wearing twigs of a special shrub, 
and may not speak to their abvioara men. This phase lasts 
until a special ceremony connected, in this instance, with the 
frog totem is performed, to witness which the young men are 
brought on to the Engwura ground to the accompaniment ot 
the sound of bull-roarers, which, after this, are much used. 
This phase extends over about eight days. 

Phase 4. The Illpougwurra are taken out of camj) in the 
morning and brought in at night-time by old men who carry 
bull-roarers. This is the most important phase, and during 
its continuance the fire ceremonies are passed through. It 
extends over two weeks or more, and after the final ceremony 
of this phase the initiated men rank as Urliara. 

Phase 5. The newly-made Urliara are kept out in the 
bush. Corrobborees, in which women take part, are held at 
night-time, and at intervals sacred ceremonies are performed 
in connection with the removal of the ban of silence between who are abmoara to one another. This phase lasts an 
indefinite length of time, but after its commencement the 


camp breaks up and the different members begin to return to 
their respective locaHties. 

When it has been decided b\- an)' particular group to hold 
an Engwura, — and the initiation rests with the x-\latunja, the 
latter, after consultation with the older men, sends out messen- 
gers to other groups. Each of these carries with him one or 
two CJiuringa inila, that is, wooden Churinga, carefully con- 
cealed from view in a casing of emu feathers. The Engwura 
messenger is called IlcJiinkiiija, a term derived from the two 
words ilcha, a hand, and ilkinja, to raise or lift up, so that 
it may perhaps be best rendered by the phrase " the beckon- 
ing hand." In the normal condition of the tribe no native 
dare disobey the summons thus received under penalty of 
most serious ill to himself, which would be certain to ensue 
should he neglect to follow the Churinga. Sometimes the 
one set of messengers passes through from group to group, 
sometimes each Alatunja, to whom the Churinga comes, pro- 
vides fresh men, and so, in course of time, after having tra- 
velled many hundreds of miles, the Churinga at last returns to 
the original sender. 

When a messenger reaches any group he shows the Churinga 
as an emblem of his bojia fides to the Alatunja and elder 
men, and then delivers his verbal message, saying when and 
where the tribe will assemble. Amongst the Arunta and 
Ilpirra there is no such thing as a message stick in the true 
sense of the term, that is, there is no such thing as a stick cut 
with notches or other marks for the purpose of reminding the 
bearer of the message, such as is frequently met with amongst 
other Australian tribes. 

Graduall}' the various local groups begin to arrive at the 
chosen spot, the group inhabiting which has meanwhile been 
gathering in stores of food such as grass seed, or munyerii. 
A spot is chosen for the Engwura ground which is more or 
less secluded, and so placed that the women and children who 
are in the main camp cannot see what is taking place on it. 
The plan on the following page shows the arrangement of the 
camp during the Engwura. In the particular instance now 
described the ground was a level stretch bounded on the east 
by the river Todd, with its belt of low scrub and gum trees, 

T 2 



and on the west b\' a rough quartzite ranj^e. At the base of 
the range ran a small creek, in the bed of which — for there was, 
as usual in Central Australia, no water in either river or creek— 
the performers were decorated without an\' risk of their being 
seen b}' an\' one who had no right to do so. 

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fill'//'; ' / 


Camp of Ptirula # 

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of Panunijaii 

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;; 'a/irt- erlioulatlsc. 


A, Storing place of Clniringa of the I'anvinga and Rulthara ; H, .storing ]ilace of Ciiiir- 
inga of the rurula and Kuniara ; C, spot where the I'anunga and HuUliara 
women stood when tlirowing lire over the Illpoiti^vitrra : I), spot where the 
Purula and Kuniara women stood when throwing fire over the ////<oiit^uiiirra ; 
r, the position of the Parra mound ; K, the ])osition of the A'<?«(7//(?. 

The natives who assembled came from all parts of the tribe, 
some travelling a distance of two hundred miles to be present, 
and a few of them came from the Ilpirra tribe, which lies 
immediatel}' to the north of the Arunta, and in which a 
ceremon)' similar to the Mngwura is held. 

As the various contingents reached Alice Sjjrings, each one 


comprising men, women and children, camps were formed on 
the eastern side of the creek, the position of any camp indi- 
cating roughly the locahty of its owner. Thus the southern 
men camped to the south and the northern men to the north, 
and, as is ahvays the case, Bukhara and Panunga men on the 
one hand, and Kumara and Purula men on the other hand, 
camped close together. A very noticeable feature also was 
the disposal of the Churinga. Those belonging to the Panunga 
and Bukhara men were all placed together on a small platform 
which was built in a mulga tree on the hill-side at the south- 
west end of the camp, where they were under the immediate 
charge of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, who is 
himself a Bukhara man. Those belonging to the Purula and 
Kumara men were under the charge of a Purula man, and 
were placed on a small platform at the northern end of the 
ground. To this storing place of the Churinga during the 
Engwura the name of tJiaiiunda is given. 

This division of the tribe into two moieties, which stands 
out so clearly on the occasion of a ceremony such as the 
Engwura, points to the fact of the original division of the 
tribe into two halves, each of which has again divided into 
two ; as a matter of fact the division has gone on to a greater 
extent, with the result that in the northern section of the 
tribe we find eight divisions, four corresponding to each of the 
original moieties. 

We were hoping that on the occasion of the Engwura, when 
the two moieties were so markedly distinct from one another, 
it might be possible to discover the original names applied 
to them prior to their division, but this was not the case, nor 
were we able to discover any meaning attached to the present 
names of the divisions. 

For the purpose of making things clear we ma}- briefly 
refer again to the constitution of the tribe. The whole area 
over which it extends is divided up into a large number of 
localities, each of which is owned and inhabited by a local 
group of individuals, and each such locality is identified with 
some particular totem which gives its name to the members 
of the local group. The term used by the native, which is 
here translated by the word totem, is Oknanikilla. If you 


ask a man what is his Oknanikilla he will reply Erlia 
(emu), Unchichera (frog), Achilpa (wild-cat), &c., as the case 
ma}- be. 

Special men of the Alcheringa are associated with special 
localities in which the}' became changed into]spirit individuals, 
each associated with a Churinga, and with each locality are 
associated also certain ceremonies which in the Alcheringa 
were performed hy these individuals, and have been handed 
down from that time to the present. Each local group has 
also, as already described, its own Erttiatnlunga, or sacred 
storehouse, in which the Churinga are kept. The men 
assembled at the Engwura represented various local totem 
groups, and the}' — that is, the older men of each group — 
had brought with them numbers of the Churinga from the 

Each totem has its own ceremonies, and each of the latter 
may be regarded as the property of some special individual 
who has received it by right of inheritance from its previous 
owner, such as a father or elder brother, or he may have, in 
the case of the men who are supposed to possess the faculty of 
seeing and holding intercourse with the Inintarinia or spirits, 
received it as a gift directly from the latter, who have at some 
time, so he tells his fellows, performed it for his benefit and 
then presented it to him. This means either that he has had 
a dream during which he has seen a ceremon}' acted, which is 
quite as real a thing to him as actually seeing it when awake, 
or that being of a more original and ingenious turn of mind 
than his fellows — as the men skilled in magic certainly are — 
he has invented it for himself and has then told the others, 
who implicitly believe in his supernatural powers, that the 
spirits have presented it to him.^ 

Each ceremony, further, is not only connected with some 
totem, but with a particular local group of the totem, and its 
name indicates the fact. Thus we ha\e the Ouabara Unjiamba 

' Attention may In; drawn to the fact that in the Arunta triln; the men who are 
supix)secl to l>e able to hold intercourse with the spirits and to receive these 
ceremonies from them are quite distinct from those usually called " medicine- 
men," and that Ixith the former and the latter are characteristically the reverse of 
nervous or excitable in temperament. 


of Ooraminna,^ which is a performance connected with the 
Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called Ooraminna. 
the Ouabara Ulpmerka of Ouiurnpa, which is a ceremonj- 
concerned with certain Ulpmerka, or uncircumcised men of 
the plum tree totem of a place called Ouiurnpa, and so on. 

Naturally the ceremonies performed at any Engwura depend 
upon the men who are present — that is, if at one Engwura 
special totems are better represented than others, then the 
ceremonies connected with them will preponderate. There 
does not appear to be anything like a special series which 
must of necessity be performed, and the whole programme is 
arranged, so to speak, by the leading man, whose decision is 
final, but who frequently consults with certain of the other 
older men. He invites the owners of different ceremonies to 
perform them, but without his sanction and initiation nothing 
is done. Very often the performance is limited to one or 
perhaps two men, but in others a larger number may take 
part, the largest number which we saw being eleven. The 
man to whom the performance belongs may either take part 
in it himself, or, not infrequently, he may invite some one else 
to perform it, this being looked upon as a distinct compliment. 
The performer, or performers, need not of necessit}- belong to 
the totem with which the ceremony is concerned, nor need 
they of necessity belong to the same moiety of the tribe to 
which the owner does. In some cases while preparations are 
being made for the ceremony only the members of one moiety 
will be present, but very often there is no such restriction as 
this. In many instances those who are present during the 
preparation are the men who belong to the district with 
which the ceremony is associated. Frequently we noticed, 
for example, that the men from a southern locality would be 
associated in preparing for a ceremony connected with a 
southern locality, and, in the same way, men from the north 
would be present during the preparations for a ceremony- 
concerned with a northern locality. 

Not infrequently two performances would be prepared 

^ In the case of names such as this which are in ordinary use, and are indicated 
on maps, we retain the accepted spelling, though this word, for example, as pro- 
nounced by the natives, should be spelt Uruminna. 


.simultaneous!}', and when this was so one of them would be a 
ceremon)' concerned with Panunga and Bukhara men and 
the other with Purula and Kumara men. Under these cir- 
cumstances one group would consist of the one moiety and 
the other of the other moiety, and they would be separated by 
some little distance and so placed in the bed of the creek that 
they could not see one another. 

Speaking generally, it may be said that every man who was 
a member of the special totem with which any given ceremony 
was concerned would have the right of being present during 
the preparation, but no one else would come near except by 
special invitation of the individual to whom it belonged, and 
he could invite any one belonging to any class or totem to be 
present or to take part in the performance. The mixture of 
men of all groups is to be associated with the fact that the 
Engwura is an occasion on which members of all divisions of 
the tribe and of all totems are gathered together, and one of 
the main objects of which is the handing on to the younger 
men of the knowledge carefully treasured up by the older men 
of the past history of the tribe so far as it is concerned with 
the totems and the Churinga. 

On this occasion everything was under the immediate con- 
trol of one special old man, who was a perfect repository of 
tribal lore. Without apparently any trouble or the slightest 
hitch he governed the whole camp, comprising more than a 
hundred full-grown natives, who were taking part in the cere- 
mony. Whilst the final decision on all jjoints lay in his 
hands, there was what we u.sed to call the "cabinet," con- 
sisting of this old man and three of the elders, who often met 
together to discuss matters. Frequently the leader would get 
u{) from the men amongst whom he was sitting, and ajjparcntly 
without a word being spoken or any sign made, the other 
three would rise and follow him one after the other, walking 
awa\' to a secluded spot in the bed of the creek. Here they 
would gravely discuss matters concerned with the ceremonies 
to be performed, and then the leader would give his orders 
and ever}thing would work with perfect regularity and 
smoothness. The effect on the j'ounger men was naturally 
to heighten their respect for the old men and to bring them 


under the control of the latter, ^^lth the advent of the white 
man on the scene and the consequent breaking down of 
old customs, such a beneficial control exercised by the elder 
over the younger men rapidly becomes lost, and the native as 
rapidly degenerates. On the one hand the j^ounger men do 
not take the interest in the tribal customs which their fathers 
did before them, and on the other the old men will not reveal 
tribal secrets to the }'oung men unless they show themselves 
worthy of receiving such knowledge. 

After these few general remarks we may pass on to describe 
more in detail certain of the ceremonies which ^\•ill serve to 
illustrate the long series. 

The first phase of the proceedings was opened b\- the Alice 
Springs natives performing the .-J.^///;//<'?/'//'^? corrobboree, which 
occupied ten evenings. As a mark of respect and courtesy 
it was decided by the Alatunja of the group, after, as usual, 
consultation with the older men, that this corrobboree should 
be handed over in a short time to the man who took the 
leading part in the Engwura and who belonged to a more 
southern group. When once this handing over has taken 
place, it will never again be performed at Alice Springs.^ As 
soon as the Atniniokita performance was concluded, another 
called the Illyonpa was commenced, and this also occupied 
ten nights. Two days after it had begun the old leader of 
the Engwura went down to the ground which had been 
chosen — the corrobborees mentioned taking place at a 
separate spot visited by men and women alike — ^and digging 
up the loose, sandy soil he made a low mound called the 
Parra, measuring about thirty feet in length, two feet in 
width and one foot in height. It was ornamented with a row 
of small gum tree boughs, which were fixed one after the 
other along the length of the mound, and is said to represent 
a tract of country, but, despite long inquiry, we have not 

^ Mr. Roth has described this same handing on of corrobborees from group to 
group in the case of the Queensland tribes, and, as he has already pointed out, 
the resuk is that the words are, as a general rule, quite unintelligible to the per- 
formers, the corrobboree performed on any occasion having probably originated in 
a distant tribe speaking a different language. For a full description of one of 
these ordinary dancing corrobborees, the general features of which are much the 
same over the whole continent, Mr. Roth's work may be consulted. 


been able to find out what is the exact meaning of the word 
Parra. All that the men could tell us was that it had alwa}-s 
been made so during the Engwura — their fathers had made it 
and therefore the\' did — and that it was aUva}-s made to run 
north and south, because in the Alcheringa the wild cat people 
marched in that direction. On the level flat to the western 
side of this Parra the sacred ceremonies forthwith began 
to be performed. 

When the Illyoupa corrobborce had come to an end, no 
more ordinary dancing festivals were held until the close of 
the whole proceedings some three months later. From this time 
onwards, and until the last act of the Engwura is performed, 
the \-ounger men who are passing through the ceremony must 
separate themselves completel}" from the women, and are 
entireh' under the control of the older men. They must obey 
the latter implicitl\'. Their da)'s are spent either in hunting, 
so as to secure food, the greater part of which is supposed to 
be brought in to the older men who remain in camp, or in 
watching the ceremonies, or in taking part in them under the 
guidance of the old men, and their nights are spent on, or 
close to, the Engwura ground. 

With the opening of the second phase, the performance of 
the sacred ceremonies concerned with the totems began 
in earnest, and as descriptive of this, we may relate what 
took i)lace during the last eight da\s of the five weeks which 
it occupied. 

About ten o'clock on the morning of the first day it was 
decided to perform a ceremon\' called the Quabara Unjiamba 
of Ooraminna. This is concerned with certain women of the 
Unjiamba or Hakea totem, who in the Alcheringa camedown 
from the north and marched southwards as far as a spot 
called Ooraminna. about twenty-five miles to the south of 
Alice Spring.s. The head man of the local group is the owner 
of this ceremony, and together with six Purula men and one 
I'anunga man, he repaired to the bed of the small creek, 
where they all sat down under the shade of a small gum tree. 
The other men remained in various places round about the 
Engwura ground, but no one came near to the place where 
the jn'eparations were being made. 


On occasions such as this every man carries about with him 
a small wallet, which contains the few odds and ends needed 
for decoration in the performance of the various ceremonies. 
The wallet consists of a piece of the skin of some animal, 
such as one of the smaller marsupials, with the fur left on, 
or else some flat strips of a flexible bark tied round with 
fur string are used. In one of these wallets will be found 
a tuft or two of eagle-hawk and emu feathers, bunches of 
the tail feathers of the black cockatoo, some porcupine-grass 
resin, pieces of red and }-ellow ochre and white pipe-cla\-, an 
odd flint or two, balls of human hair and opossum fur string, 
a tuft or two of the tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo, and not 
least, a dried crop of the eagle-hawk filled with down. 

The men squat on the ground, and their wallets are 
leisurely opened out. There is no such thing as haste 
amongst the Australian natives. On this occasion the owner 
of the Ouabara had asked his younger brother to perform the 
principal part in the ceremon}-. He was a Purula man of the 
Hakea totem, and he had also invited another man who 
was a Panunga of the Achilpa or wild cat totem, to assist in 
the performance. The reason why the latter man was 
asked, though he belonged neither to the same moiety nor 
totem as those to which the owner of the ceremony did, 
was simply that his daughter had been assigned as wife to 
the owner's son, and therefore it was desired to pay him some 
compliment. After some preliminary conversation, carried on 
in whispers, which had reference to the ceremon}-, the per- 
formers being instructed in their parts, and also in what the 
performance represented, a long spear was laid on the ground. 
One or two of the men went out and gathered a number 
of long grass stalks in which the spear was swathed, except 
about a foot at the lower end \\hich was left uncovered. 
Then each man present took off his hair waist-girdle and 
these were wound round and round until spear and grass 
stalks were completely enclosed, and a long pole, about six 
inches in diameter and about eight feet in length, was formed- 
Then to the top of it was fixed a bunch of eagle-hawk and 
emu feathers. When this had been done one of the men 
by means of a sharp bit of flint — a splinter of glass, if obtain- 


able, is preferred — cut open a vein in his arm, which he had 
previously bound tightl)' round with hair string in the region 
of the biceps. The blood spurted (jut in a thin stream and 
was caught in the hollow of a shield, until about half a pint 
had been drawn, when the string was unwound from the arm 
and a finger held on the slight wound until the bleeding 
ceased. Then the down was opened out and some of it was 
mixed with red ochre which had been ground to powder on a 
flat stone. Four of the Purula men then began to decorate 
the pole whh alternate rings of red and white down. Each of 
them took a short twig, bound a little fur string round one 
end, dipped the brush thus made into the blood, and then 
smeared this on over the place where the down was to be 
fi.xed on. The blood on congealing formed an excellent 
adhesive material. All the time that this was taking place, 
the men sang a monotonous chant, the words of which were 
merely a constant repetition of some such simple refrain 
as, " Paint it around with rings and rings," " the Niirtiinja of 
the Alcheringa," " paint the Nurtunja with rings." Every 
now and again they burst out into loud singing, starting on a 
high note and gradually descending, the singing dying away 
as the notes got lower and lower, producing the effect of 
music dying away in the distance. Whilst some of the men 
were with the Nurtunja, the Fanunga man taking no 
part in the work beyond joining in the singing, another 
Purula man was occupied in fixing lines of down across six 
Churinga, which had been brought out of the Purula and 
Kumara store for the of being used in the ceremony. 
Each of them had a small hole bored at one end, and by 
means of a strand of human hair string pas.sed through this it 
was attached to the pole from which, when erect, the six hung 
pendant. Of the Churinga the two uppermost ones were 
supposed to have actually belonged to the two Hakea 
women who in the Alcheringa walked down to Ooraminna. 
Of the remaining four, two belonged to women and one to a 
man of the same totem, and the remaining one was that of a 
man of the AchiljDa totem. 

The decorated pole which is made in this way is called 
a Xuriuuja, and in one form or another it figures largely 


in the sacred ceremonies, especially in the case of those which 
are associated with northern localities. Its significance will 
be referred to subsequentl}-. 

As soon as the Nurtunja was read}-, the bodies of the 
performers were decorated with designs drawn in ochre and 
bird's down, and then, when all was read}-, the Xjirtiinja was 
carried b}- the Purula man to the ceremonial ground, and 
there, b}' the side of the Parra, the two men knelt down, the 
hinder one of the two holding the Xiirtunja upright with both 
hands behind his back. It is curious to watch the ^\"a}" in 
which every man who is engaged in performing one of these 
ceremonies walks ; the moment he is painted up he adopts a 
kind of stage walk with a remarkable high knee action, the 
foot being always lifted at least twelve inches above the 
ground, and the knee bent so as to approach, and, indeed, 
often to touch the stomach, as the bod}- is bent forward at 
each step. 

The Purula man who had been assisting in the decoration 
now called out to the other men who had not been present to 
come up. This calling out al\va}-s takes the form of shouting 
'' pau-au-au " at the top of the voice, while the hand with the 
palm turned to the face, and the fingers loosel}' opened out is 
rapidly moved backwards and forwards on the wrist just 
in front of the mouth, giving a ver}- peculiar vibrator}- effect 
to the voice. At this summons all the men on the ground 
came up at a run, shouting as the}- approached, ''tijJia ! x<:Jia ! 
z^Jir-rr!" After dancing in front of the two performers for 
perhaps half a minute, the latter got up and moved with ver}- 
high knee action, the Niirtiinja being slowl}- bent down over 
the heads of the men who were in front. Then the dancers 
circled round the performers, shouting loudl}- " zvlia ! ivha ! " 
while the latter moved around with them. This running 
round the performers is called Walikutninia. Then once 
more the performers resumed their position in front of 
the other men, over whose heads the Xiirtunja was again 
bent down, and then two or three of the men laid their 
hands on the shoulders of the performers, and the ceremon}- 
came to an end. The Xiu-tiinja was laid on one side, and the 
performers, taking each a little bit of down from it, pressed 


this in turn against the stomach of each of the older men who 
were present. The idea of placing hands upon the performers 
is that thereby their movements are stopped, whilst the mean- 
ing of the down being pressed against the stomachs of the 
older men is that they become so agitated with emotion 
b\' witnessing the sacred ceremony that their inward parts, 
that is, their bowels, which are regarded as the seat of the 
emotions, get tied up in knots, which are loosened by this 
application of a part of the sacred Nurtnnja. In some cere- 
monies the Nitrtnnja itself is pressed against the stomachs of 
the older men, the process receiving the special name of 

The whole performance only lasted about five minutes, 
while the prcj^aration for it had occupied more than three 
hours. As soon as it was over the performers sat on the 
ground ; the down was removed from their bodies and pre- 
.served for future use and the Nurtnnja was dismantled, the 
hair string being carefully unwound and returned to its 
respective owners. 

The ceremony refers to two Alchcringa women of the 
Unjiamba or Hakea totem. As the}- travelled they kept 
close to the tracks of one party of Achilpa or wild cat men, 
but do not appear to have ever seen or come in contact with 
the men, who were travelling in the opposite direction. It is a 
remarkable fact that in some way or other the Achilpa and 
Unjiamba totems seem to be connected together, but what 
the exact connection is we have been unable to discover. 
The Unjiamba women referred to followed as they travelled by, but not actually along, the track of one of the main 
Achilpa parties, and the two groups walked in opposite direc- 
tions. Again, very many of the Achilpa ceremonies refer to 
the men eating Unjiamba, a feature which is not met with in 
the ceremonies of any other totem, and it will further be 
noticed that in the ceremony just described, out of 
six Churinga attached to the Xurtunja, no fewer than five 
belonged to Unjiamba individuals. 

When the ceremony was over there was a rest for an hour 
or two, and then, early in the afternoon, two lots of Churinga 
were brought in from the Panunga and Bukhara store to be 


examined. Men of all groups — about fifteen in number — 
gathered together in the bed of the creek, w ith the Churinga 
in the middle of the group. The first lot belonged to the 
Achilj)a of Ooraminna, the second to the Irritcha, or eagle- 
hawk men of a place called Undool)-a, out to the east of Alice 
Springs. During the examination certain of the younger 
men were present, and in this instance the Churinga, which 
were bound up in parcels tied tightl)' round with human hair 
string, were unpacked b}' the sons of the Alatunjas of the 
two localities to which they respectixel}' belonged. While 
this was taking place the men sang as usual, pausing ever}- 
now and then while some old man leant over to whisper in 
the ear of some one opposite to him. No loud talking was 
allowed, and ever)- one looked as solemn as jjossible. The 
Churinga having been at last unpacked — for in these cere- 
monies everything is done with the utmost and, to the on- 
looker, often exasperating deliberation — the}- were taken up 
one by one by the Alatunja, in whose charge they were, and 
after a careful examination of each he pressed them in turn 
against. the stomach of some one or other of the old men 
present. The man thus honoured held the Churinga, gazing 
down upon it, while a whispered con\ersation was kept up 
with regard to each one and its former possessor. Amongst 
them was one which was the Clniriuga nniija of one of the 
wives of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, and this 
was handed over to the woman's son for him to carefully 

When the examination was complete the)' were all care- 
fully wrapped u]) and taken back to the store, and then 
preparations were made for another ceremon\'. Prexious to 
this, however, at a signal from the head man, all the Purula 
and Kumara men had left the ground w ith the exception of 
two old ones, who were the Gamniona of the head man and 
who were especially invited by him to sta\- and watch. 

The Quabara to be performed was one associated with 
the Ulpmcrka of Ouiurnpa, the latter being a group of men 
belonging to the Akakia or plum tree totem ; the men are 
called Ulpmcrka because in the Alcheringa they were, as will 
be explained in another chapter, left uncircumcised — that is, 



they remained Ulpmerka, or boys. The materials having 
been opened out, singing began, the burden being a constant 
repetition of the words " the sand hills are good." This Ouabara 
was in the possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and 
he invited a man to perform it who was a tribal son to 
himself, belonging to the Panunga division and to the Irri- 
akura totem. First of all the Alatunja's eldest son went over 


to where the man sat and rubbed his forehead against the 
latter's stomach, then embraced him round the neck and 
ended by rubbing his stomach against that of the man in 
question. Then a Bukhara man came up, that is a tribal 
father, and the same process of embracing was repeated. 
The meaning of this was that the young man had expressed 
a sense of his unfitness to undertake the duty, but when he 



had once been embraced in this wa}- by men who were 
especially associated with the ceremony it was impossible for 
him to refuse an}' longer. As soon as this was over the 
Alatunja of Alice Springs at once went over to where he sat 
and began to decorate his head. Twigs of a species of 
Cassia were fixed on to the top of his head enclosing his hair, 
which was gathered into a bunch so as to form, with the 
twicis, a lon<j rounded structure about two and a half feet in 
length, projecting ui:)\\ards and slightl\- backwards on the top 
of his head. The twigs were bound round and round with 
hair string. The Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who was 
the father of the performer, bled himself, the blood being 
taken on this occasion, as it ver)' often was, from the subin- 
cised urethra, which was probed with a sharp pointed piece of 
wood. As the decorations proceeded — that is, while the 
head-dress was being covered with a design in white and red 
down, the men sitting around sang of the hair top-knot of 
Kukaitcha, the latter being a celebrated man of the Alche- 
ringa associated with the plum tree totem, the top-knot having 
reference to the manner in which the hair is worn previous 
to the boys passing through the ccremon\- of circumcision. 

" Yai yai Kukai 
Ul lal arai 
Vai yai Kukai 
Yai yai Achcri 

Time after time some such simple refrain was repeated while 
the down was fixed on to the performer's head-dress and 
body. When all was read}' the performer, j^receded b}' an 
old man, walked in a crouching attitude along the creek bed 
until he came opjjosite to the Parra, when he ran straight 
across and squatted in front of and close beside it. 

It was just sunset as he came on to the ground, and at the 
same moment the arrival of a fresh contingent of natives 
from the south was announced. They had come into camp 
on the other side of the river and had, according to strict 
etiquette, sat down there for some little time apart from the 
other men. By way of welcome a party of the natives with 
spears, shields and boomerangs ran across to where they sat 

U 2 


and, with the usual high stepping action, danced round and 
round them, brandishing spears and boomerangs and shouting 
loudl\' ; suddenly they turned, crossed the river and came, 
still running, up the bank, threw their weapons on one side 
amongst the bushes and, without stopping, came on and 
circled round and round the performer, shouting '' xvah ! 
wait ! " After a short time two Purula men went and sat 
down, one in front of and one behind the performer ; then a 


third came and, as he bent forward over the front one, the 
three placed their hands on the shoulders of the performer 
and he ceased the quivering and wriggling movements which 
he had been executing, while the men danced round him. 
The performer then got up and embraced the older men one 
after the other, this being done to assuage their feelings of 

The evening was sjjent, as it usually was, singing on the 
ground close to the Par/a. During all the first six weeks a 



considerable length of time was always occupied during the 
night in what was called " singing the ground." The }-oung 
men who were passing through the Engwura for the first 
time stood up forming two or three lines close behind one 
another, like lines of men in a regiment of soldiers, and, led 
by one or two of the older men, either moved in a long line 
parallel to the Parra mound, shouting " tvJia ! luha ! " alter- 
nating this at intervals with a specially loud " whrr-rr-rrr 

FIG. 51. 


when with one accord they bent forwards and, as it were, 
hurled the sound at the Parra, or else the\- would sometimes 
rush closely round and round the mound in a single line, 
shouting in just the same wa}-. The noise was deafening, 
and the loud " zuJia" and still more penetrating cr}- of 
" whrr-rr-rr" could be heard a mile or two awa}- echoing 
amongst the bare and rocky ranges surrounding the Engwura 
ground. When this singing was over — that was about mid- 
night — they all lay down around their camp fires, and for a 


few hours there was a welcome silence. Usually at night 
there were a few of the men awake preparing, by the light of 
scattered fires, for ceremonies which often took place in the 
dead of the night or else just before the da}^ broke. 

The morning of the second day was entirely occupied with 
the examination of Churinga. Early in the afternoon the 
Quabara Iruntarinia Irritcha was performed. This will .serve 
as a good example of what is called an Iruntarinia ceremony, 
that is, one which is supposed to have been imparted to a 
special individual by the Inintari)iia or spirits. The favoured 
person to whom this particular one had been shown was 
a celebrated medicine man, or Railtc/iazva, the son of the 
Alatunja of an Irritcha or eagle-hawk localit}', but \\ho was 
himself an Udnirringita or witchetty grub man. The Iniii- 
tarinia can present Quabara to A\homsoever they choose 
to honour in this way, quite regardless of the recipient's 
totem. The latter may retain possession of the ceremony 
himself or he may pass it on, as a gift, to some other 
man, but in that case the individual must be of the totem 
with which the ceremony is concerned. Naturally the posses- 
sion of such a ceremony is a mark of distinction, and it 
also gives the posse.ssor a peculiar advantage over others, 
not only because he is .so favoured by the spirits, but because 
he has something in his possession which enables him to 
confer a favour on some other man to whom he may decide 
to hand on the Quabara. On this occasion the recipient 
had handed on the ceremony to his own father, who was the 
head of the eagle-hawk group, and from whom, in course of 
time, it will descend to an eagle-hawk .son. 

Two men were invited to perform, both of them being sons 
of the Alatunja, and they were respectively of the eagle-hawk 
and emu totems. Only Panunga and Bulthara men were 
present during the preparations. The hair of each man was 
bunched up and, together with a conical crown of Cassia 
twigs, was bound round and round with hair string. Then 
blood, drawn in the usual way, was smeared over the front 
part of the head-dress and across the body in the form 
of a broad band round the waist and a band over each 
shoulder, the two uniting back and front. Va\c\\ band was 


about six inches broad, and had the form when the decoration 
was complete of a solid mass of pink down, edged with a line 
of white. Into the hair-girdle behind was fixed a large 
bunch of the black feathers of the eagle-hawk, and into the 
top of each man's head-dress were fixed three Churinga, 
decorated with close rows of down coloured alternately 
red and white, each Churinga being about three feet in length 
and decorated at its end with a tuft of eagle-hawk feathers. 
In his mouth one man carried a small c)-lindrical mass, about 
eight inches in length and two in diameter, made of grass 
surrounded with hair string and covered with lines of down. 

When the decoration was complete they came into the open 
and each of them sat down on his haunches on the convex 
side of a shield, so that they faced one another at a distance 
of about eight feet. Each man had his arms extended and 
carried a little bunch of eucal\-ptus twigs in his hands. 
The\- were supposed to represent two eagle-hawks quarrelling 
over a piece of flesh which was represented by the downy 
mass in one man's mouth. At first the\' remained squatting 
on their shields, moving their arms up and down, and still 
continuing this action which was supposed to represent the 
flapping of wings, the\- jumped off the .shields and with 
their bodies bent up and arms extended and flapping, began 
circling round each other as if each were afraid of coming to 
close quarters. Then they stopped and moved a step or two 
at a time, first to one side and then to the other, until finally, 
the}' came to close quarters and began fighting with their 
heads for the possession of the piece of meat. This went on 
for some time and then two men stepped out from amongst 
the audience and took away the Churinga, which were a great 
weight and must have caused a considerable strain on the 
head, especially in the great heat of the afternoon sun, for it 
must be remembered that it was now well on into the summer. 
Then once more they began going round and round each 
other flapping wings, jumping up and falling back just like 
fighting birds, until finally they again came to close quarters, 
and the attacking man at length .seized with his teeth the 
piece of meat and wrenched it out of the other man's mouth. 
The acting in this ceremony was especially good, the actions 



and movements of the birds being admirably represented, 
and the whole scene with the decorated men in front and the 
group of interested natives in the background was b}- no 
means devoid of picturesqueness. 


Later on in the afternoon there was performed the Ouabara 
Unjiamba of Ooraminna. In this ceremony, we again find, 
as in the one already described, the close connection between 
the Unjiamba and Achilpa totems. The two men who per- 
formed, and neither of whom belonged to the totems, were 


decorated each with a broad band round the waist, and one 
passing over each shoulder and joining, back and front, in 
the middle line. The area occupied by these bands was first 
of all rubbed with grease and then with powdered wad, an ore 
of manganese which gives, when used in this way, a peculiar 
pearl-gray tint, which harmonises well with the chocolate- 
coloured skin and stands out in strong contrast to the edging 
of white down which everywhere margins the bands. Over 
each ear was suspended a tuft of the tail tips of the rabbit- 
bandicoot. One of the two men carried a large Churinga on 
his head, fixed into the usual helmet made of twigs bound 
round with string. During the preparation the natives sang 
chants concerning the Kaiiaua (a sacred pole about which 
there will be more said subsequently) and referring also to 
the carr\'ing round of the Nurhmja. 

Both of the performers represented Achilpa men and they 
sat down immediately facing one another near to the Parra, 
the man carrying the Churinga having a shield in front of 
him, and in his hands a few twigs supposed to represent the 
flowering Hakea — that is the Unjiamba. These he pretended 
to steep in water so as to make the decoction of Hakea flower 
which is a favourite drink of the natives, and which the man 
sitting opposite to him pretended to suck up with a little 
mop made of a twig with fur string tied round it. While 
they did this the other men ran round and round them 
shouting " wJia ! wha ! " Suddenly, the man who had been 
drinking sprang round so as to place his back just in front 
of the other man, who then put the shield behind his back 
with his arms holding it there, and the two for a few moments 
swayed from side to side slightly raising themselves from their 
squatting position as they did so. Those who were running 
round dropped out one by one until onl}- three were left and 
they then put their hands on the jjcrformers' shoulders and 
the performance was at an end. The same ceremony was 
enacted about eleven o'clock at night, and then after the 
usual " singing " of the cereinonial ground the day's work 
came to a close. 

On the morning of the third da\- the Ouabara Achilpa of 
Urapitchera was performed. This was a ceremony concerned 




with a group of wild cat men who in the Alcheringa walked 
across from south to north of the eastern side of the country 
now occupied by the Arunta tribe ; whilst doing so they 
camped for a time at a spot called Urapitchera on the Finke 
River. The ceremony is now in the possession of the 



Alatunja of the Imanda group of men of the emu totem and 
he received it from his father who was a wild cat man. At 
the request of the owner it was performed by an old Purula 
man who was the head of the Elkintera, or large white bat 
totem, at a spot close to Imanda which itself lies on the Plugh 
River. In this performance two Nurtuiijas, each of them 


about ten feet in length, were prepared. Unlike most of the 
A'^iirtiiiijas there was no central support such as a spear, but 
the whole structure was made of a \er\- large number of 
flexible grass stalks bound round with hair string and decorated 
with the usual rings of red and white down, so that each of 
them was somewhat flexible. The performer was decorated 
with lines and bands of down passing from his head along 
either shoulder and then down the bod)- as far as the knees. 
On the Farra ground the Xurtujijas were arranged so that 
one Kix\(\ of each was under the man's waist-girdle, ^\•hile the 
other, ornamented with a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers, rested 
on the ground, the two diverging from each other. Then 
the other men were called up and began running round and 
shouting and then all passed under the Xiirtutijas \\\\\c\\ the 
performer lifted up for the purpose, the men w ith their hands 
and shoulders helping to suj^port them, for the)' had been 
carried in that way in the Alcheringa. Finally, the old 
Purula man tcj whom the ceremon)- belongs came U[j and 
embraced the old performer, \\\\o was in fact about the 
oldest man upon the ground and almost blind, but as full of 
energ)' as the youngest man present. 

In the afternoon of the same day a remarkable ceremony 
was j:)erformed which had no special relationshij) to the 
Kngwura inasmuch as, though owned b\- llie head man of a 
particular totem — the Ullakuppcra or little hawk — it had 
no reference to either his or any other totem, but was a 
performance representing the doings of certain Kurdaitcha 
men. The description of it is therefore given in connection 
with that of the KiirdaitcJia custom to which it more properly 
belongs. We could not find out wh\- it was given during the 
iMigwura at all, but it was evidently a favourite one with the 
natives, by most of whom it seemed to be well-known, and the 
opportunity was taken, while a large number were gathered 
together, to show it to those who had not previously seen it. 
It was repeated at a later date and was the only ceremony 
which was performed which had no special significance as 
regards the Engwura. 

Early on the morning of the fourth day a very sjjecial 
examination of Churinga took place. Some years ago there 



was a small group of Echunpa or large lizard men who lived 
about twelve miles to the west of Alice Springs. Gradually 
the group became extinct until finally no man was left to 
inherit and take care of the sacred storehouse containin<2f the 

FIG. 55. 


Churinga belonging to the group. Under these circumstances, 
the extinct group having consisted mainly of Panunga and 
Bukhara men, a contiguous group which was nakrakia with 
the extinct one, that is consisted mainly of the same moiety 
of the tribe, entered into possession. The totem of this group 


was Unchalka, or little grub, and its head man, as no other 
lizard men lived anywhere near, took charge of the storehouse 
and of its contents. Some years later it chanced that the 
wife of a man of the Alice Springs group conceived a child in 
the old lizard locality and so, in the person of her son, the 
local Echunpa group was resuscitated. The lizard man had 
now arrived at maturity and advantage was taken of the 
Engwura to hand over to him, in the presence of represent- 
atives of the tribe, the Churinga of his ancestors. 

On the evening before, the head man of the Unchalka had 
sent out special messengers to bring in the Churinga, and 
about nine o'clock in the morning they brought them into 
camp and handed them over to their custodian, who at once 
took them down into the creek where a number of the older 
men were gathered together as well as some of the younger 
ones, amongst whom was the man to whom they were to be 
handed over. First of all, the Alatunja of the Unchalka totem 
and those of the two important witchett)'-grub groups, the one 
at Undoolya and the other at Alice Springs, knelt over towards 
one another and held a lengthy whispered conversation which 
was now and again shared in by other older men in the group, 
the most solemn silence being, as usual, observed by all the 
rest. The purport of this conversation was the holding of an 
Echunpa or lizard ceremony as soon as the jjrcsent business 
had been carried through, so far, that is, as ij was to be carried 
that day. When this matter, and llic performers, had been 
decided upon, the old Unchalka man retired to the edge of 
the group. Then the Churinga were laid on shields and 
small boughs cut from the gum tree under A\hich they sat ; 
there were about sixty of them all together, and as .soon as 
they were all unpacked, the inan to whom they were being 
handed over was called up and took his seat along with the 
older men next to the Churinga. A long conversation, again 
carried on in whispers and with much solemnit)', then ensued 
between the recipient and the two old men who told the 
former what the Churinga meant and whom they had belonged 
to. When this was over the new possessor rubbed his hands 
over the forehead of the Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who 
was a very old man, and then embraced him and ha\ing done 


this went down on his knees and rubbed the old man's 
stomach with his forehead. It may be noted here that the 
deference paid to the old men during these ceremonies of 
examining the Churinga is most marked ; no young man 
thinks of speaking unless he be first addressed by one of 
the elder men and then he listens solemnly to all that the 
latter tells him. During the whole time the presence of 
the Churinga seems to produce a reverent silence as if the 
natives really believed that the spirits of the dead men to 
whom they have belonged in times past were present, and 
no one, while they are being examined, ever speaks in tones 
louder than a whisper. 

The old man just referred to was especially looked up 
to as an Oknirabata or great instructor, a term which is 
only applied, as in this case, to men who are not only old 
but are learned in all the customs and traditions of the tribe, 
and whose influence is well seen at ceremonies such as the 
Engwura where the greatest deference is paid to them. A 
man may be old, very old indeed, but }'et never attain to the 
rank of Oknirabata. 

When the young man had rubbed the stomach of the 
Oknirabata, the latter went over to where the Alatunja of the 
Unchalka sat and did the same to him in acknowledgment 
of the fact that he had safely kept the Churinga. The reason 
for this action on the part of the Oknirabata lay in the fact 
that he was the oldest Oknia or father of the young man. 
Then he went to an old Okira or kangaroo man and did the 
same. The territory of this man's group lay close to that of 
the Unchalka men, but not being nakrakia with the extinct 
lizard men he and his people could not go in and inherit the 
land. Still the local relationship, which enters in a vaguely 
defined but unmistakable way into the customs concerned 
with the totems, found on this occasion its expression in this 
act of courtesy paid to the head of a neighbouring group by 
the father on behalf of his son. The natives said that this 
was done to keep the old kangaroo man from being jealous 
and unfriendly. As the handing over of the Churinga was a 
matter of great importance it could not be properly carried 
through at one sitting and so, after a long time had been spent 


in their examination, the completion of the ceremony was 
postponed to another day. 

The preparation for the lizard ceremony then bcL^an. 
The old Oknirabata was to perform it, and after his head had 
been encased in a strong helmet, the whole of this, as well as 
his face and the upper part of his body and arms, were covered 
with a dense mass of white down, two half rings of which also 
adorned the front of each thigh. A large bunch of eagle 
hawk feathers was fastened behind into his waistband, and on 
his head he carried no fewer than seven large Churinga 
belonging to the totem, two of them being remarkable from 
the fact that they were curved in shape like a boomerang. 
These were the only ones of this shape on the Kngwura 
ground, and the\' were evidentl)' ver)' old ones,^ as the 
original pattern with which they had been ornamented was 
almost entircl}' obliterated by the innumerable rubbings to 
which the\- had been subjected in course of time. When 
decorated the performer went at first some distance along the 
creek bed so as to be out of sight of the other men, who 
assembled not far from the Parra at a spot where they spread 
out a small patch of gum boughs. .Standing behind this they 
waited for a few minutes, after which the lizard was .seen 
in the distance throwing up clouds of dust as he came up from 
his hiding place in the creek and apjjroached the ground. He 
came on slowl)- in a zig-zag course, stooping down and 
assuming a \ariet)' of attitudes, alwaj's of course with the high 
knee action. The \-ounger man, to whom the Churinga were 
being handed over, now appointed two men to go and meet 
him. This they did about thirt}' or fort)- yards away from 
the group, after which the performer j^retended every now and 
then to turn back, whereuix)n the two men circled round him 
holding their arms uj) as if to jjrevent him fr(jm going away 
while they cried out " fZ/rr-r/rrr," and did their best to 
encourage him to come on to where the group of men stood 
waiting. Gradually he came on, and, when close to, the men 
forming the audience went to the boughs and spread them out 
as if inviting him to sit down, which he did after a short time, 

' .\mongst m.iny hiindrcil Cliurinj^a examined we have only .seen five of this 
shape, and, curiously, allof them belonged to a lizard totem. 


and then shouting '' ivha ! zvJia !'' the}' circled round him in 
the usual way. The two men who went to meet him 
represent little birds called TJiippa-tJiippa, which tradition 
says are the descendants of Alcheringa men who came and 
watched and ran round and round some lizard men who were 
travelling along towards Simpson's Gap. The TJiippa-thippa 


changed into birds of the same name, who ever afterwards 
became the mates of the lizard people. 

The night was spent as usual singing on the ground. 

On the morning of the fifth da}' we were introduced to a 
new form of ceremony. As might have been expected amongst 
a tribe occupying such an extent of territory as does the 
Arunta, there are certain features in regard to the ceremonies 
which vary in different parts. Not only do the Arunta 
extend in a north and south direction for more than three 
hundred miles, but at their southern limit thc}' are in contact 
with tribes whose customs vary much from their own and in 



which the social organisation is radically different. Where 
two such tribes come into contact with one another each has 
a certain influence upon the other, and thus we find that the 
southern Arunta have gained certain things from their southern 
neighbours which are not found in the north, and vice versa. 
We have already pointed out that the Nurtunja in one form 
or another plays an important part in the sacred ceremonies. 
When we come to the southern Arunta its place is taken to a 
large extent by what is called the IVaniiiga. This is a 
structure which varies much in size and form, but consists 
essentially of a framework of sticks which in its simplest form 
has the shape of a cross, and to which are fixed lines of string. 
We will describe first the ceremony as performed at the 
Engwura, and will then add a few general remarks on the 
subject of the \Va)ii}iga. On this occasion it was used in 
connection with the Ouabara Ouatcha of Idracowra, that is a 
rain ceremony associated with what is called by white men 
Chambers Pillar, not far from tlic Finke River. Idracowra is 
a corruption of the native words iturka zciim, the native 
name for the pillar. 

Two men, one a I'urula the other a Bukhara, both of them 
belonging to the emu totem, were decorated for the ceremony 
with white bands of down, two on each side of the body. On 
the top of their heads each wore a bunch of parings of gum 
tree wood smeared with human blood. The front man had a 
freshly cut gum stick about two and a half feet in length with 
the green bark still on, and, like the parings, smeared with 
blood. This he carried across his shoulders, one hand holding 
it at either end. His back was adorned with a bunch of eagle- 
hawk feathers fixed in to his waist girdle. The other man, who 
walked immediateh' behind him, carried the IVanim^a, which 
he grasped with both hands at the back of his neck. The 
strain on his arms must have been very great, as it was 
carried in an upright position. With {particularly high knee 
action, and with their bodies quivering, they came up out of 
the bed of the creek while the audience sat on the ground b)- 
the side of the Parra, the front row of men, who belonged 
to the southern district from which the Waniuga came, 
beating the ground with boomerangs. The performers 



advanced slowly for about thirty or forty yards, stopping 
every now and then, until finally they came close to the 
seated men. Then a Kumara man got up and took the 
Wa7ii)iga away, and placed it carefully on one side. The 
performers then simply walked up to the group, sat down, 
and were pressed upon the shoulders in the usual way. 



In this instance the ]]'a?iinga was made out of a long 
desert-oak spear ten feet in length ; at right angles to its 
length were fixed two sticks about three feet in length, each 
of them at a distance of two and a half feet from one end of 
the spear. Between the two, and running parallel to the 
length of the spear, were strung tightly, and very close 
together, lines of human hair-string. Each line took a turn 

X 2 


round the transverse stick at either end, and then passed off 
in a slanting direction to the central spear round which it was 
passed, and then ran back again to the transverse bar ; from 
here it was carried back along the length of the structure, 
between the two bars, close by the side of the first line, and 
so on, time after time, until the whole space between the two 
bars was filled in with closely-set parallel bands of string. 
At either end the strands passing off to the central spear 
formed a triangular-shaped structure. A certain number of 
lines forming a band an inch and a half in width, and run- 
ning all round, about the same distance, within the margin, 
were made of opossum fur string whitened with pijDcclay, the 
same width of string on each side of it being red-ochred, 
while the remainder was left in its normal black colour. Tufts 
of the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo were 
attached to the upper end of the spear and to each end of the 
transv'erse bars, and finalK* a number of bands of white down 
were attached in roughly j^arallcl lines across the length of 
the lines of string, little masses of the same material covering 
the bases and tips of the feathers. The whole structure took 
several hours to prepare, and showed no little ingenuit}- and a 
considerable amount of artistic capacit)' on the jjart of its 

The various parts of the \\'aiii!i_<^a have their different 
meanings, but it must be remembered that the same structure 
will mean one thing when it is used in connection with one 
totem and quite a different thing when used in connection 
with another. This particular ]Vani)iga was emblematic of 
the Ouatcha, or water totem. The red string represented 
thunder, the white band lightning, and the ordinary uncoloured 
string was the rain falling. The white patches and bands of 
down naturally represented clouds, while the red of the 
feathers and the blood smeared on the parings of wood worn 
on the men's heads represented the of dirty brown 
froth which often float on the top of flood waters. 

This was the only occasion on which, during the Kngwura, 
the Waninga was used, the reason being that in perhaps the 
greater part of the tribe, and certainly in the northern half, the 
Niirtuiija is most largely employed in totemic ceremonies 


with, it must be remembered, precisely the same significance 
as the IVaniiiga, that is, in each instance the Waniiiga, or the 
Nurtiinja, as the case may be, is emblematic of the particular 
totem with which the ceremony being performed is associated. 
As we pass right into the south the XiirUinja completely 
disappears and the Waniuga takes its place. At Charlotte 
Waters, for example, or Crown Point on the lower part of the 
Finke River, no Nurtunja is ever used ; when the rite of 
circumcision is practised a \Vani}iga is made, and after it has 
been used in the performance of a sacred ceremony it is fixed 
up in the ground and the novice embraces it.^ Occasionally 
a kind of compound one is made in which a small one is 
attached to the top of a larger one, in much the same way in 
which a small Xtirtitiija is sometimes attached to the top of a 
larger one. 

The use of the JVam'/iga extends far south, right down, in 
fact, to the sea coast at Port Lincoln, and it evidently passes 
out westwards, but how far it is impossible to say. At 
Charlotte Waters various totems use it, such as the Irrunpa 
or lizard (the equivalent of the Echunpa of the north), Okira 
or kangaroo, Arunga or euro, and Ouatcha or water. The 
Irrunpa Waiiinga is similar in structure to that of the 
Ouatcha, but the parts have an entire!}- different significance ; 
the projecting end represents the head, the triangular part 
following this the neck, the top transverse bar the fore limbs, 
the main part the body, the lower bar the legs, and the 
bottom end of the spear the tail. Exactly as in the case of 
the different marks on the Churinga, so in the Waniuga the 
different parts represent entirely different objects according 
to the totem with which the particular one is associated. 

In connection with this ceremony and the use of the 
Wanifiga, we learned the following particulars with regard to 
the wanderings of certain Okira, or kangaroo men, in the 
Alcheringa, which we insert here to give some idea of the 
nature of the instruction with respect to the doings of their 
ancestors in the Alcheringa, which is given by the old men to 
the younger ones during the performance of the Engwura. 

^ Ceremonies in which the lVantii;^a is used are described in connection with 
the rile oi Lartna, Chapter VH. 


Somewhere out from the far west there came two kan^^aroo 
men who carried with them a lars^e Waiiinga. They stayed 
for some time, first of all at a spot close to Idracowra, at 
a water-hole called Umbera-wartna, and tliere they formed 
an Okiianihilla, that is the}' deposited some of the Churinga 
which they carried in the ground, and so left behind spirit 
individuals of the kangaroo totem ; then they walked on down 
the Finke River to a place called Urpunna, where the)- 
erected their Wanmga and formed another Oknanikilla. 
Then, carr)-ing the ]Vnnii)iga, they went underground and 
crossed beneath the Lilla Creek which enters the i^'inke from 
the west, and on the southern side the\' met a mob of 
kangaroos and euros who came to look at them. Travelling 
on the}' came out of the ground at a group of hills called b}' 
the natives Amanda, and prc^babl}' identical with what is now- 
called Mount Watt, one of a groujj of silurian sandstone hills 
which rise out of the level plains and sand hills about fort}- 
five miles to the south-west of the junction of the l-'inke and 
Lilla. Here they rested for some time and formed an 
Oknanikilla. Then the}' turned south-east, and travelling- 
underground crossed beneath the W'ichinga (now called the 
Hamilton) creek, and then on under the Alberga, until once 
more the}' emerged at Marpinna, where they formed an 
Oknanikilla, and where also they opened veins in their arms 
and allowed the blood to stream out o\er the ground, and 
so made a great level clay plain which has remained to 
the present time. Then, after going still further south and 
passing out of what is now the country of the ;\runta, the}- 
turned to the west and made a big circuit through the sand 
hill countr}- now occupied b}- a part of the Luritcha tribe, 
until finally, turning north, they came to the George Gill 
Range, and crossed this so as to reach a spot now called 
Tempe Downs, where the}' formed an Oknanikilla. Then 
following this to its junction with the Palmer the}- went a 
little wa}' up the latter, and, together with their Jl'aninga, they 
ceased from wandering, and went down into a well-kn<n\n 
water-hole called Illara, where thc}^ stayed, forming an 
important Oknanikilla of the kangaroo totem. The import- 
ance of the traditions relating to the wanderings of the 



Alcheringa ancestors has already been pointed out in connec- 
tion with the discussion of the totems. It must be remem- 
bered that it is during the Engwura ceremony especial!}- that 
a knowledge of these matters is imparted by the elder to the 
younger men, on whose memory the traditions are firmly fixed 
by means, to a large extent, of the ceremonies, each one of 
which is associated with some special spot and some special 
individual or group. 

On the sixth day the ceremonies opened with one relating 
to Ulpuierka men who belonged to the Inguitchika (a grass 


seed) totem of a place called Imiunga, on the Jay River. 
This particular ceremon)- belonged to a Purula man, who 
invited a Bulthara man, assisted by a Panunga, to perform it ; 
the former belonged to the witchetty-grub and the latter to 
the emu totem. The Bulthara man was son of an Inguitchika 
woman, the other performer being the son of a woman of the 
Illonka (little }-am) totem, the locality of which adjoined that 
of the former. The man to whom the ceremon}- belonged 


was IVitia, or }ounL;er brother, of the InL^uitchika woman, and 
has charge of her Chiiringa naiija. 

For the performance two sticks were taken, each about 
four feet long ; when swathed in grass stalks and bound 
round with hair-string, each of them was about nine inches 
in diameter. The ends were ornamented with bunches of 
white and pink cockatoo feathers and eagle haw k. The two 
were bound together tightly in the form of a cross, and each 
was further ornamented with rings of down. The whole 
structure formed a Xiirtiiiija. During the performance the 
two men squatted down to one another, each carrying 
in his hand a small twig of gum tree, the Xurtunja being 
fixed on to the head of the hinder of the two men, who 
simply swayed their bodies about from side to side while 
the other men ran round and round them, e.xcept two old 
men who squatted down to one side singing about the walking 
about of the [Ipinerka men in the Alcheringa. 

During the evening of this the si.xth da\-, the men seated 
by the side of the Parra began to sing about the Kiilcliia or 
fur armlets being bound around the arms of the }oung men 
who were passing through the Engwura, anrl also began 
singing about the Kauana, or sacred j^ole, whicli was to be 
erected later on. 

On the seventh day an important Ouabara of the Ulpinerka 
of Ouiurnpa was performed. In this there were seven per- 
formers, three of whom represented bo\'s who wore top-knots 
on their heads — the usual style of doing a boy's hair. Two 
others, who represented an individual called Kukaitcha, the 
leader of the llpmcrka^ wore decorated Churinga fastened as 
usual into a head-dress, which was made (jf twigs bound 
round with hair-string. One represented an Ulpinerka man, 
and wore a large tuft of eagle hawk-feathers on his head, 
w hilc the last man had an enormous head-dress two feet six 
inches in height, made in the usual way and decorated with 
broad bands of down. Through this was stuck a bent stick 
about four feet in length, carrying at each end a tuft of 
feathers, while from the head-dress were suspended four 
Ulpinerka Churinga, two cjf them belonging to women and 
two to men. 


Each of the performers was profusely decorated with 
bands of }'ellow ochre, charcoal or wad, edged with down. 
The preparation for the performance took between two and 
three hours, and was under the superintendence of the 
Alatunja of Alice Springs, in whose charge at present are all 
the Churinga belonging to this group of Ulpnierka men of 
the plum tree totem. They will some day be handed over to 
the only living representative of the totem, who is at present 
too young to receive them. 

During the preparations the men sang of putting twigs on 
to the head of Kukaitcha, of the Paukutta, or top-knots of 
the boys, and of the walking of the Ulpnierka in the 
Alcheringa. The man with the special head-dress was 
supposed to represent a great Alcheringa Kukaitcha, and the 
head-dress itself was a form of Xiirtnnja, which in this case 
represents a plum tree, the stick which passed through it 
representing the branches. \\'hen all was ready the per- 
formers divided into three sets. One of the Kukaitchas went 
to a spot at the north-east end of the ground ; the man with 
the Niirtiinja was led by the Alatunja up to the Farm, beside 
which he squatted, while the other five went to the north- 
west end of the ground. Of the latter the three representing 
boys sat down in a line, two facing one way and one the 
other. At the end of the line, where the first mentioned sat, 
stood one of the Kukaitchas with two Churinga in his hands 
which he kept beating together, the idea being that he was 
teaching the boys to sing. At the other end stood the 
Ulpmerka man pretending to knock plums off a tree, which 
the boy in front of him picked up and ate. When all the 
performers were ready in their allotted places, the other men, 
who had meanwhile remained out of sight in the bed of the 
creek, were called up on to the ground. They were supposed 
to represent a mob of Ulpmerka men, and coming at a run 
on to the ground the\' went first of all to the solitary 
Kukaitcha man and danced, shouting, around him ; then 
suddenly, accompanied by him, the\' ran across to where the 
five men were arranged, acting as already described. After 
the usual dancing, shouting, and laying-on of hands, the 
whole party ran across to where the great Kukaitcha sat, and 



all joined in a dance round him while he swayed about from 
side to side. The usual embracing of the old men by the 
performers brought the ceremon)' to an end. 

There is a curious tradition of the natives which is con- 
cerned w ith this special group of Ulpmcrka men, with which 


we were accjuaintcd before the Kngwura took place, and w ith 
part of which this ceremony is concerned. About fifteen 
miles to the S.S.E. of Ahce Springs is a phun tree totem 
locaht)'. In the Alcheringa the totem included a number of 
men wIkj were designated Ulpmcrka of the i)luni tree totem 


for the simple reason, as explained elsewhere, that they had 
not been circumcised. In the same way it may be remarked 
that we meet with Ulpmerka men of other totems such as the 
grass seed. The plum tree Ulpmerka men had, so says 
tradition, onl}- two women amongst them, who both belonged 
to the bandicoot totem, and had joined the Uluierka party 
after wandering alone for some time over the country. At 
first they were considerabh- alarmed at the Ulpmerka men, 
but the latter made a large Nurtunja, and after the women 
had been shown this, then, for some reason, they were no 
longer afraid. The }'ounger woman was then gorgeously 
decorated with down, a small, bluntly conical Niirttinja was 
placed on her head, and the men then danced round her 
shouting, " ivah ! ivah ! " Then she was taken and laid down 
by the side of the large Nurtmija, which was fixed upright in 
the ground, and the operation of atna ariltha-knma, the 
equivalent ceremon}- to that of piira ariltha-knma as 
practised upon the men, was performed b}' means of a large 
stone knife, after which all the men had access to her. The 
two women were then taken to the camp of the Kukaitcha, 
who was the headman of the local Ulpmerka men, and who 
claimed the women as his own, but allowed the others to 
have access occasional!}- to the woman who had been 
operated upon as just described. After a time a special 
messenger or Iniinirra, who was also named Kukaitcha, came 
down from the north — from the country, as the natives say, 
of the Qnatcha alia — that is the salt water. He called the 
men to him and told them that they were to leave their own 
countr}- and follow him. Then he took the two women away 
from the local Kukaitcha, and a start was made for the 
north. After travelling as far as a place now called Wigley 
Springs, four miles to the north of Alice Springs, the Xiirtimja 
which they carried with them was erected, and the elder of 
the two women was operated upon. All the men as before 
had access to her ; and the party remained at this spot for 
some little time. Then they went on towards what is now 
Bond Springs, close to which they camped, and here one man, 
a Kumara, was left behind. His name was Kukaitcha, and 
at the present da\- his reincarnation is living at Alice Springs, 


and his Xnuja stone is a small block which arose to mark the 
spot where his Alcheringa ancestor went clown into the 
earth, leaving behind him his spirit part in his Churinga. 
From this spot they went on to the Burt Plain close to, and 
camped at, Allan Waters, after which the\- went up into the 
sk\- and continued in a northerly course for some twent\'-five 
miles, camping at Umbaltna-nirrima, and here it is related 
that the Ulpmerka pla\ed with pieces of bark just as boys do 
now. Travelling on, the\' again performed ariltJia-kuma on 
the }-ounger woman, to whom, b}- permission of Kukaitcha, 
all had access. The women always travelled along with 
Kukaitcha, at a little distance to the side of the main party. 
At Ulathirka one man, named Apallana, had intercourse 
without permission with the \'ounger woman, and accordingly 
he was killed, but, though thus killed, his spirit part remained 
in his Churinga. At the same spot a Purula man was left 
behind, and his descendant is now li\ing, but as yet he is 
only a young boy not initiated. Halting at various places, 
they travelled northwards until at length they came to the 
country of the salt water, where they remained ever 

The ceremony, which has been described as it was per- 
formed during the Kngwura, represents the Ulpmerka men 
of the south being collected together round the Kukaitcha 
from the north jsrior to their accompanying him. First of 
all there were two performances in which the Vlp))ierka men 
were shown dancing round their own Kukaitcha, who was 
the head of the local grouj), and then all of them went and 
joined together afterwards in dancing round the Kukaitcha 
from the north, signifying, as it were, that they regarded him 
as the greater man and as their leader. 

In the afternoon the Ouabara Interpitna of a place called 
L'ratinga on the Finke River, between Henbury and Idracowra, 
was performed. The Interpitna is a fish totem, the particular 
form being known locally as the bony bream {Chatoessus 
horni), which is plentiful in the water holes, such as the 
one at the spot known to white men as the Main camp, 
with which the totem is associated. The possessor, and also 
in this case the performer, of the Ouabara was an old Panunga 



man of the Obma or snake totem, who had inherited it from 
his father. His hair was done up as usual, and the whole 
front of the head-dress, as well as his face, was covered 
with a mass of white down, above which stood out in strong 
contrast a large bunch of black eagle-hawk feathers. His 
body was decorated with bands of charcoal, edged with white 
down. Squatting on the ground, he moved his body and 
extended his arms from his sides, opening and closing them 

FIG. 60.- 


as he leaned forwards, so as to imitate a fish swelling itself 
out and opening and closing its gills. Then he moved along, 
imitating b}- means of twigs in his hands the action of a man 
driving before him, with boughs, the fish in a small water- 
hole, just as the natives do. Four men, all from the same 
southern locality as himself, but of different totems, squatted 
down to one side of him singing, while one of them beat time 
with a stick on the ground. Suddenly one of the latter jumped 
across and sat down in front of him, gradually approaching 

3i8 NAllXK TKlliKS OF CENTRAL AUSl KAl.lA chap. 

nearer and nearer, until he came close enough to ]nit his 
hands on the old man's shoulders. 

Late on at night just before midnight another Ouabara of 
the Ulpvicrka of Ouiurn])a was jierformed, representing three 
men eating plums. 

On the eighth day a Ouabara of the Irriakura totem of a 
place called Oknirchumpatana, on what is now called Soda 
Creek, was performed. The Irriakura is a favourite food of 
the natives, and is the name given to the bulbs of Cypcnis 
rotiindns. One man only was decorated, but the design was 
a very quaint and striking one. A ring of grass stalks bound 
firmly together w ith human hair-string, and measuring about 
two feet in diameter, was made and co\ered with white down. 
On the shoulders, stomach, and arins of the performer were 
drawn broad bands of a light pearl colour, made by rubbing 
on some wad ; each band was edged with white down. The 
hair was done into a head-dress, all the front of which, as well 
as the man's face, was covered with dow n. Then, when he 
had been thus ornamented, the ring was put over his head 
and, rested slanting forwards and downwards, on his shoulders. 
A large number — not less than a luuulrccl- little I)unches of 
the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo had been 
prepared, half of them tipped with red and half with white 
down, and these were stuck into the ring so as to radiate C)Ut- 
wards all round it, while numbers of others were stuck into 
his head-dress and beard. The dark chocolate colour of the 
skin, the black and red feathers, the gtay bands on the body 
and the white and pink down, together with the light yellow 
sand on which the man sat, formed a striking mixture of 
colours which was b)- no means unpleasing, and the whole 
decoration was extremely quaint. The man .seated himself 
in front of a dozen bunches of cockatoo tail feathers, decorated 
with down, just like those on his person, and arranged in 
a straight line in the sand. Then, moving slightly from 
side to side, he scooped at intervals, and one after another, 
the bunches uj) with both hands, jjausing every now and then 
to look around him and to put him.self into the most ridi- 
culous attitudes, as if he heard something which frightened 
him, but could not tell what or where it was. The tufts of 




feathers represented the growing Irriakura, which he was 
supposed to be gathering. The other men sat to one side 
watching the performance and singing about Unatunpika, 
the' name of the man whom the ceremony represented, and 
which was also in this instance the Churinga name of the 


performer. With the uprooting of the last of the tufts, the 
ceremony came to an end, and then the ring called Ilyappa 
was taken off and put in turn on the heads of the other 
Irriakura men who were present, and also on those of other 
of the older men. The tradition connected with this per- 
formance is as follows. In the Alcheringa, Unatunpika sat 


down eating Irriakura at the other side of Oknirchumijatana, 
when suddenly he heard the Irn'piichas, that is the ring- 
necked parrots, who were the mates of the Irriakura men, 
cry out to warn him that a mob of strange men were 
coming up. He dropped his Irriakura and came across 
to Oknirchumpatana. The mob, which also consisted of 
Irriakura men, left two individuals there, whose reincar- 
nations are now living in the form of two individuals, called 
respectivel)' Irrturinia and Irriakura. Then they went on to 
the other side of the Ja}- River, to a place called Unbanjun, 
where the\' formed the Oknanikilla, from which sj^rung, 
amongst others, some of whom are women, an individual 
now living at Alice Springs, called Tukerurnia. 

After midnight there was performed the Ouabara Akakia 
(plum-tree), of a place called Iliakilia in the Waterhouse 
Range. This was acted by four men, who were respectively 
Purula and honey-ant totem ; Purula and " native pheasant " ; 
I'urula and white bat ; Bukhara and illonka} First of all one 
man came up to where the audience was sitting by the Parra. 
He pretended to knock plums down and to eat them, and 
after a short time he sat down amongst the audience. Then 
two others came up, one of whom remained standing, while 
he knocked down imaginary plums, which were eaten by the 
other man, who seated himself on the ground. This over, 
both of the men went and joined the audience, and the fourth 
man came and went through the same pretence of knocking 
down and eating plums. The interesting point in connection 
with this and many other very similar ceremonies lies in the 
fact that the Alcheringa ancestors are so frequently repre- 
sented as freely eating the animal or plant, from which they 
derive their totemic name.^ At the present time the con- 
ditions with regard to this point arc markedly different from 
those which evidently obtained in times past. 

During the evening close by the Parra a dense group was 
formed with the older men standing in the centre, and the 

' Illonka is the fruit of a species of Marsdenia. 

- The iierforiiiers in each ceremony represent, of course, individuals f>f tiie 
totem with which the ceremony is concerned. In this instance each of the four 
men represented, for the time Ijcing, a plum-tree man. 


younger ones on the outside. In this way, as closely packed 
as possible, they sang together for some two hours, the group 
as a whole swaying backwards and forwards without ceasing. 
Then towards midnight they all sat down, and in this posi- 
tion, still closely packed together, they continued singing till 
between one and two o'clock, when the old men decorated 
the heads of the \'Ounger men with twigs and leaves of an 

FIG. 62. — cf:re.moxy of tur irriakura totem of okmrchumpatana. the 


Eremophila shrub. This material, which is worn from now 
till the end of the ceremonies, is called wetta. The old 
men who did the decorating were Urizara, who had alread}- 
been through the Engwura, and to each one of these, four or 
five young men had been allotted by the presiding old man. 
There were no restrictions as to the relationship of the men ; for 
example, a Panunga man could take charge of men of any 
class, but, until the end of the ceremonies, the }'oung men who 



had been decorated became ab-nioani to the man who liad 
cliarge of them, and he to them. The)- might not either 
speak to, or in the presence of, the old man without his 

From this time on right to the ver)- end of the ceremonies 
the young men were called collectively b\- the name I/ipoiig- 
i\.'urrn, which means not smeared with grease or colour ; 
and with this the second phase of the Engwura came to 
an end. 

Initiation Ceremonies {continued) 


Third phase : Changes occurring in customs — The ceremonies refer to times when 
customs in regard to such matters as marriage restrictions, cannibaHsm, etc., 
were different from those of the present day — The Engwura may serve both 
to maintain customs and also as a means of introducing changes — Further 
examination of Churinga — Onuicha, or " de\"il-devil "' men — Arunta have no 
conception of a permanently malevolent spirit — Final handing over of Churinga 
— Rubbing of Churinga to promote growth of beard — The Erathipa stone and 
tradition — Tradition concerning wild cat men changing into plum tree men 
eating plums — Performance of a special ceremony concerned with the frog 
totem — Association of particular objects, such as Nuriitnjas and Churinga, 
with particular animals and plants — Fourth phase : Illpoiig-Miirra sent out into 
the bush — They have to bring in food for the old men — Fire-throwing in the 
women's camp at morning and night when the Illpongwiirra go out and return 
—Ceremony representing the cooking of a man — The last fire-throwing in the 
women's camp — Cutting down the tree to form the Kaiiaita — Throwing fire- 
sticks over the women in their camp at night — The Ambilyerikirra ceremony — 
Taking the Anibilyeriktrra to the women's camp — Possible explanation of 
these ceremonies — Decoration and erection of the Kaiiaita — Putting the 
Illpoiigzviirra on the fire out in the bush — Painting the backs of the Illpong- 
wiirra — Visit to the women's camp and the placing of the lUpoiigiviirra on 
fires — Return to the Engwura ground — The newly-made Urliara remain out 
in the bush — Fifth phase : Women's dance — Ceremonies concerned with 
removal of the ban of silence between men who are ab-moara to each other — 
Ceremonies of aralkalilima and aiiat'iithah'liina. 

Apart from the fact that the young men had now received 
a definite name, and that each one had been made ab-nioara 
to some older man under whose charge he was, the details of 
the third phase were closely similar to those described as 
characteristic of the second. The same examination of 
Churinga was carried on, and ceremonies of the same nature 
as the preceding ones were enacted day after day and night 
after night. The sustained interest was very remarkable 
when it is taken into account that mentally the Australian 
native is merely a child, who acts, as a general rule, on the spur 

V 2 


of the moment. On this occasion the\- were gathered together 
to perform a series of ceremonies handed down from the Alche- 
ringa, which had to be performed in precisely the same way 
in which the}' had been in the Alcheringa. Ever\'thing was 
ruled by precedent ; to change even the decoration of a per- 
former would have been an unheard-of thing ; the reply, "it was 
so in the Alcheringa," was considered as perfectly satisfactory 
b}' way of explanation. At the same time despite the natural 
conservatism of the native mind, changes have come over the 
tribe since the times when their ancestors lived, to whom the 
ceremonies now being dealt with refer. For example, not a 
(ew of them deal with the existence of cannibalism, and 
though this may not }'et have been wholly discarded, still 
it is not practised amongst the Arunta except to a very slight 
extent, whereas, if there be anything in the traditions, it must, 
in the Alcheringa, have been largel}' practised. Then again, 
the marriage customs are very different from those with which 
we are brought into contact in the ceremonies concerned with 
these Alcheringa people. We have already had occasion in 
another place to deal with this question, meanwhile it ma)- be 
said here that the Engwura, from this point of view, appears 
to .serve two distinct, or rather it always serves one, 
and might serve a second. In the first place its main result 
is undoubtedly to preserve unchanged certain customs, and to 
hand on a knowledge of past histor}^ or rather tradition, from 
generation to generation, but in the second place, and to a 
much lesser extent, it may serve as the vehicle for the intro- 
duction of changes. 

The third phase was ushered in b}' the examination of a 
large number of Churinga which were brought in from the 
witchetty grub storehouse in the Hcavitree gap, which 
cuts through the Macdonnell Ranges, and forms a passage 
from north to south, for the Todd River. They were under 
the charge of the Alatunja, who specially invited his 
Gammona, Umbirna and Ikuntera, to come up and take part 
in the proceedings. The Churinga, wrapped up in bundles, 
round which large quantities of human hair-string were tied, 
were laid on shields in the bed of the creek, and the men sat 
round them, those of the Panunga and Bukhara divisions 




■occupying the inner circle, and the Purula and Kumara men 
the outer circle. This arrangement was due to the fact that 


the witchetty grub totem is mainly composed of men belonging 
to the Panunsja and Bukhara m.oiet\'. 


The Churinga having been solemnl)- spread out, the 
Ahitunja of the local totem took one up, and, having ground 
up and placed on it some red ochre, the old Alatunja of the 
Undoolya locality leaned over and pressed down on the 
Churinga the hand of the son of the first-named ; then he 
rubbed the young man's hand up and down upon it while he 
whispered to him, telling him to whom the Churinga had 
belonged, who the dead man was, and what the marks on the 
Churinga meant. Then it was passed on to a Purula who was 
thej'oung man's Cuibinin^^inA who was seated on the outside 
of the group. This over, a second Churinga was treated in 
just the same wa)'. Special attention was paid to the 
Churinga naiija of one of the brothers of the local Alatunja 
who had died a few years ago. It was first of all passed on 
to a younger brother of the Alatunja who slightl)- rubbed it. 
Then it was pressed against the stomach of another younger 
brother, who kept it in this position for a minute or two while 
he and others literally shed tears over it, amidst perfect 
silence on the part of all the others present. Then two other 
Cliuritiga iiaiija of dead men were examined, rubbed over 
with red ochre, and their meaning explained in whispers by a 
Bulthara man to a Purula, who was his .son-in-law. After an 
hour had been thus passed, a particular Churinga belonging 
to an OnincJia or " devil-man " was shown, and on the 
production of this there was, for the first and onl}' time, 
general though subdued laughter. Oninclia of the 
Alcheringa arealwa)-s the source of a certain amount of mirth, 
whether it be during the examination of their Churinga or on 
the occasion of the performance of ceremonies concerned with 
them. The particular individual whose Churinga was now 
examined has given his name, Chauritchi, to a rocky hill to Alice Springs where he is rcjiortcd to have gone 
into the earth and where his spirit still lives. Though the)- 
laugh at him when they are gathered together in da\-light, at 
night-time things are vcrv' different, and no native would 
venture across this hill after dusk. It will be noticed that 
there is .something ver}- different in the of these Oruncha 
individuals from what obtains in the case of other j)eople of 
the Alcheringa. The most striking point is that whereas, 



like every one else, they had their Churinga and spirit part 
associated with it, yet they never formed any Oknanikilla ; 

FIG. 64. — IRUNTARINIA CEREMONY OK Till 1 \ iWilV h ' I K -; I! I KATK 


each one still inhabits the same spot in sjjirit form where, in 
the Alcheringa, he went down into the earth, but he never 
undergoes reincarnation. He is regarded as a more or less 


mischievous creature, a kind of Bogey-man who, if met with 
when out alone in the dark, will carry off his victim into the 
earth. Partly, no doubt, the idea is a creation of men of old to 
act as a wholesome check upon women who might be prone, 
without the fear of some such mysterious and invisible creature, 
to wander away under cover of the darkness from their 
domestic hearth, and it does undoubtedly act as a strong 
deterrent to any wandering about at night by men and women 
alike. There are times when the Oriiiic/ia will take a man 
down into the ground and transform him into a medicine 
man. On the whole the Oruncha may be regarded as a 
mischievous spirit who will in some way harm those whom he 
comes across in places where they should not be, that is where 
they know they are likely to meet him if they venture alone 
after dark, rather than as a distinctly malevolent spirit whose 
object is at all times to injure them. Of such a permanent 
malevolent spirit, the Arunta do not appear to have formed a 
conception ; in fact the place of such an individual is largcl\' 
supplied by their beliefs with regard to the Kurdaitcha and 
various forms of magic. 

Some few da}-s later the ceremony of handing over the 
lizard Churinga to their new owner, the initial stage in 
connection with which has already been described, was 
completed. After the Alatunja, who had previously had 
charge of them, had brought them into camp, they were 
placed in the store of the Panunga and lUilthara men at one 
end of the Engwura ground. Together with a large number 
of others, perhaps as many as two hundred in all, they were 
again brought down into the bed of the creek where the old 
men were assembled, only three of the }-oungcr men being 
allowed to be present. The others were sent out of camp. 
After the usual whisperings, handing round of the Churinga 
and rubbing of them with red ochre, they were placed on a 
shield and handed over to their new posses.sor. Then all the 
old men in turn came and pressed their foreheads against the 
young man's stomach, he for some time tr)'ing, or ])rctending 
to try, to prevent the very old Okiiirabata — the Alatunja of 
the Undoolya group — from doing so. This ceremony is a 
.somewhat striking one, anrl is evidently a form of recognition 


of the new position held by the young man, who with the 
presentation of the Churinga became the recognised head of 
the local group of lizard people. 

There was amongst the Churinga one curious one which 
was also remarkable as being the only stone one present at 
the Engwura, the reason of which is to be associated with the 
fact that they are brought mainly with the object of using 
them during the ceremonies, and for this purpose stone ones 
are not suitable. This special one was elongate-oval in shape 
and about six inches in length. From end to end ran a band 
of black charcoal, an inch in width, the part on either side of 
this being coloured red with ochre. The Churinga was that 
of a Jerboa-rat totem, the rat in question having especially 
long whiskers which were represented b}' the black band, and 
it is supposed that the rubbing of this Churinga on the chin 
of a young man is very beneficial in promoting the growth of 
hair on the part touched. In connection with this, it may be 
noted that the length and fulness of the beard is a striking 
feature in the members of the Arunta and other tribes of 
Central Australia. 

Though the Churinga are now in the keeping of the 
lizard man he is not supposed to have absolute possession of 
them until he has, at some future date, made a present of a 
considerable quantity of hair-string to the Alatunja of the 
Unchalka or little grub group who took charge of, and 
preserved them from harm upon the temporar}- extinction of 
the old lizard group. 

As already said, the days and nights during the third phase 
were spent very much in the same manner as they were 
during the second, so that we will only describe here, without 
reference to the order in which they occurred, as this was a 
matter of no importance, the more important and typical of 
the ceremonies. 

Two ceremonies were concerned with the Onmcha or, as 
the natives call them, the Orunchertzva, the word ertzva 
meaning man. The first of these was the Quabara Oruncha 
of Kulparra, a place now called the Deep Well about fifty 
miles to the south of Alice Springs. The ceremony belongs 
to a Purula man, and the two performers were respectively a 


rurula man of the "native pheasant " > totem, and a Kumara 
man of the kantraroo totem. Each man wore, fixed into his 


head-dress, four Churinga. while his bocl\- was decorated with 
' Leipoa occllata, the ni(iun<l liinl. 


bands of charcoal edged as usual with white down, a bunch 
of eagle-hawk feathers being fixed into his waist-band in the 
middle of his back. When decorated they were led on to 
the Parra ground with the usual high knee action. Then old 
men, from the neighbourhood of the locality to which the 
ceremony belongs, sat down and began beating boomerangs 
on the ground while the two performers ran backwards and 
forwards on all fours, sometimes chasing one another, some- 
times turning round face to face and pretending to growl 
and to frighten one another. After acting in a wa}' which 
much amused the audience for about five minutes, the two 
OnincJia came and laid themselves down in front of the old 
men, whom, after getting up again, the}' embraced. 

The second of the ceremonies was the Ouabara Oruncha of 
Chauritchi, the latter being the native name for Alice Springs. 
This ceremon}' belongs to the local Alatunja, and the most 
remarkable feature connected with it was the enormous head- 
dress formed of twigs of Cassia bush bound round with )-ards 
and yards of human hair-string so as to form a solid mass 
two feet six inches in diameter, the whole structure weighing 
at least thirty pounds. It was, as usual in the case of all 
the head-dresses, built up on the performer's head, and, as can 
be imagined, the strain upon the muscles of his neck must have 
been severe, for though the actual performance onh- lasted a 
few minutes the preparation for it occupied two hours. The 
front of the head-dress and the face were co\-ered with a mass 
of white down ; a band of blue-gray wad ^ ornamented his 
shoulders and chest, and in the middle was joined to another 
which ran round above the waist, each having an edging of 
white down. From the front of the head-dress projected two 
sticks, each of which was nearl)- a yard in length, and was 
covered with rings of down. In the noonday heat of mid- 
summer, with the sun shining straight down so that }-ou sat, 
or stood, on your own shadow, the remarkable and weights- 
head-dress must have been particular!}- tr}ing to wear. The 
performer sat down on a heap of small gum tree boughs and 

^ Wad is an oxide of manganese, which when powdered uj) produces a bhiish- 
gray powder, and is rubbed on the body for decorative purposes. The wad is 
obtained from a special spot near to Ilenbury on the f'inke River. 


began swaj-ing about from side to side and brushing flies off 
with httle twigs. At the same time he kept constant!}' peer- 
ing about as if he were on the look-out for some one ; ever)- 

I k;. 66.— ckkkmony ok the okun( ha oi- ( nAURnrni. 

Tlic head-dress represents a man wh(ini the Qriinclta has killed. The two horns 

are pointing sticks. 

now and then he would crouch down amongst the boughs as 
if to gather himself together into as small a space as possible ; 



when he did so, the back view was a somewhat comical one, 
consisting mainly of a glimpse of a large bunch of eagle hawk 
feathers, and beyond this the great disc-shaped head-dress. 
The idea was that he was in search of men with the object of 
catching and eating them. When caught, his custom was to 
carry them on his head until they were wanted for consump- 
tion, and the massive head-dress was supposed to represent a 
man whom he had killed and was thus carrying about with him. 



The two sticks in the front projecting like two horns are 
somewhat suggestive. They are simply pointing sticks — 
called in this instance inwwima — which the Oruncha uses 
for the purpose of pointing at and killing his prey, and the 
thought suggested itself that possibly the two traditional 
horns of the devil, as he is pictured amongst more highly 
civilised peoples, may, sometimes at all events, owe their origin 
to an early belief in the efficacy of pointing sticks like those 
at present actually used amongst various races of savage 
people, such as the Australian natives. 


This particular OnincJia went in the Alcheringa down into 
the hill close to Alice Springs, which is still spoken of as the 
Mirra oriinc/ici, that is the Oruuclia's camj), and he is supposed 
at times to come out and seize upon men and women who 
are wandering about after dusk. Every now and again he 
will take some man down into the earth, and then, after a 
time, the man is found in a dazed condition, but transformed 
by the Oniiicha into a medicine man. 

In connection with the Ouabara Iruntarinia Uniiamba of a 
]}lace called Apera-na-unkumna, a somewhat remarkable 
Xurtuiija was used. This was a ceremon}- which had been im- 
parted to aPurula man by \\\c Iruntarinia of the localitx' named. 
It was now being presented b)Mts owner to another man of the 
totem with w hich it A\as concerned ; and, as this \\as the first 
time on which it liad been performed in this localit\-, etiquette 
prescribed that only men of the Purula and Kumara moiety 
should be present during the preparation, all others remaining 
at some distance from the creek. The Nuitnuja consisted of 
a long spear, grass stalks, and hair-string bound together 
in the usual wa\', but in addition, from near to the upper end, 
there hung down a shorter pole about five feet long. Each 
part was decorated with elongate lines of pink and wJiite 
down instead of the customary circles which are so character- 
istic of the usual large Niirtiinja. The large pole indicated a 
Hakea tree, and the small one a }(nmg tree, and it was 
supposed to be identical in form with a double Xurtuiija 
which two Alcheringa Unjiamba men carried about with 
them in their wanderings. 

Another ceremony associated with a remarkable tradition 
was the Ouabara Ambaquerka of Erathipa. This was in the 
jiossession of the Alatunja of Alice Si)rings, and at his 
request was performed b}' a Panunga man. The performer is 
supposed to be a woman with a newly-born child, the latter 
being represented by an oval mass of twigs and grass stalks 
encased in hair-string and down, about two feet in length by 
one foot in diameter. The w hole was covered with close-set 
bands of white down, two black spots being left to indicate 
the eyes. The performer held the supposed child in his 
hands while he sat down swa)'ing about anrl quixering, the 


other men dancing and singing as they ran round him. 
When it was over the oval mass was pressed against the 
stomach of the Alatunja, who then took and pressed it 


against that of the old Purula man who presided over the 

The tradition with which this is associated is as follows : 
In the locality of a plum-tree totem about fifteen miles S.S.E. 


of Alice Springs, i.s a special rounded stone which projects, 
from the Ljround amidst mulga scrub for about a height of 
three feet. This stone is called Eratliipa. In the Alcheringa 
a man named Inta-tir-kaka, who belonged to the plum-tree 
totem and was not an Ulpmcrkn, came from a place called 
Kulla-ratha, a fine waterhole out to the north of Mount 
Heuglin, in the western MacdonncUs, and, crossing a de- 
jDression in the latter range close to Mount Gillen, he 
proceeded to Uk-ang-wuUa, which means the hollow or hole, 
and lies close to Ouiurnpa, where he found a Niirtunja 
erected but could not see an)' people to whom it belonged, 
so he proceeded to appropriate it ; but, when he tried to 
pull it up out of the ground, all that he could do was to 
slightl\- loosen it ; seeing that he could not secure it whole 
he broke it off at the butt and down it tumbled with a loud 
crash. The Ntirtnnja was the propert)' of a plum-tree 
woman, named Unkara, who, with her little baby bo)-, was 
out hunting for the plums on which they fed. She had 
originated at this spot and had lived alone here, having 
nothing to do with the plum-tree Ulpvierka men who lived not 
far awa}'. When she heard the crash she came quickly back 
to her camp, and there she saw what had taken place and 
was greatl}' grieved ; as the natives say, her bowels yearned 
after her Xurhinja. She put her baby boy into the hollow 
where the Nurtnuja was broken off, just below the surface, 
and, leaving with him a large number of Churinga, went in 
pursuit of the thief The boy went into the ground, taking 
with him the store of Churinga, and the EratJiipa stone arose 
to mark the spot, and forms the centre of an Oknanikilla of 
the plum-tree totem, the stone being, of course, the home of 
all the many spirit individuals, one of whom was associated 
with each of the Churinga. 

The women went straight up into the sky and, following 
the course taken by Intatirkaka, she alighted at a place 
called Oki-ipirta where he had camped, from here she walked 
on towards the north-west, and then again went up into the 
sky and did not descend until she reached Kulla-ratha, from 
which place the man had come originally, and to which he 
had returned. Here she found a large number of plum-tree 



people, but could not see her Nurtiinja because the thief had 
placed it right in the middle of a big group of Ntirtunjas 
which belonged to the party. In grief at not being able to 
recover it she sat down and died. 

However, to return to the EratJiipa stone. There is on 
one side of it a round hole through which the spirit children 
are supposed to be on the look-out for women who may 
chance to pass near, and it is firm!}" believed that visiting the 
stone will result in conception. If a young woman has to 


pass near to the stone and does not wish to have a child she 
will carefully disguise her youth, distorting her face and 
walking with the aid of a stick. She will bend herself double 
like a ver\' old woman, the tones of whose voice she will 
imitate, saying, " Don't come to me, I am an old woman." 
Above the small round hole a black line is. painted with char- 
coal, and this is always renewed by any man who happens to 
visit the spot. It is* called Iknula, and a black line such as 
this, and called b)- the same name, is always painted above the 



eye of a newly-born child, as it is supposed to prevent 
sickness. Not only may the women become pregnant by 
visiting the stone, but it is believed that by performing a very 
simple ceremony, a malicious man may cause women and 
even children who are at a distance to become so. All that 
has to be done is for the man to go to the stone by himself, 
clear a space of ground around it, and then, while rubbing it 
with his hands, to mutter the words "' Arakntja lunnka oknirra 
luita iminja aritchika',\v\{\z\i means, literally translated," Plenty 
of young women, you look and go quickly." If, again, a man 
wishes to punish his wife for supposed unfaithfulness, he ma}- 
go to the stone and, rubbing it, mutter the words " Arakutja 
tana yingalla iwupiwiuna crtwa airpinna aliniila viunja 
ichakirakitcha'' which means, " That woman of mine has 
thrown me aside and gone with another man, go quickly and 
hang on tightly ; " meaning that the child is to remain a long 
time in the woman, and so cause her death. Or again, if a 
man and his wife both for a child, the man -ties his hair- 
girdle round the stone, rubs it, and mutters, " Arakutja thing- 
unawa tmta koanilla arapinina" which means, " The woman 
my wife you (think) not good, look." 

The word Erathipa means a child, though it is seldom used 
in this sense, the word Ambaqucrka being most often 
employed. Similar Erathipa stones are found at other spots. 
There is one near to Hermannsburg on the Finke River, 
another at the west end of the Waterhouse Range, and 
another near to Running Waters on the Finke. 

Another ceremony called the Ouabara Anthinna of Arimurla 
was associated with a curious and rather complicated tradition. 
Anthinna is the opo.ssum totem, and Arimurla is a place 
now called VVinnecke's depot, by reason of its having been 
used as such during early days ; it is in reality'merely a gorge 
leading through the rocky ranges which form the eastern 
continuation of the Macdonnells. The ceremony refers to 
two Purula women of the opossum totem. They both 
originated at and never left Arimurla. Each of the performers 
had a curious T-shaped Niirtunja on his head. From the 
cross-bars of each there were suspended Churinga which had 
once belonged to the two women. 



When the ceremony, which consisted of the usual swaying 

to and fro on the part of the performers, and of the running 


round and round of the other men, was concluded, we were 
told the following. In the Alcheringa a party of wild cat people 
who, unlike the other wild cat parties, consisted for the 'main 

Z 2 



(Dart of Pulthara and Panunga, started from near Wilyunpa 
out to the east of Charlotte Waters. The)' journeyed on to 
the north, halting and forming Oloianikilla at various places. 
After a time they came close to Arimurla, but passed by 
without seeing the two Purula opossum women who were 

I k;. 71. 


sitting down there. Going on they met a man who had come 
down from the salt water country far away to the north ; he 
was of the same totem as themselves, but lived alone and was 
called atnabitta, a contemptuous name applied to a man 


who is given to interfering with women. Him they killed, 
and to the present day a stone in Paddy's creek at a spot 
called Achilpa Itulka represents the slain man. Having done 
this, they walked on, eating Hakea and driving mosquitoes 
before them, and, when the}' could not get water, drinking 
their own blood. At a place called Irri-mi-wurra they all 
died, but sprang up again as Ulpmerka, that is uncircumcised 
boys, and after that the\- went on eating plums. Reference 
to this will again be made when dealing with the question of 
the eating of the totem. In this, as in not a few of the 
traditions, we see that the eating of the totemic animal or 
plant seems to be a special feature, and one to which attention 
is particularl}- drawn. 

After eight days had been spent in the performance of 
ceremonies, it was evident that an important change in the 
proceedings was about to take place. Under the direction of 
the leader of the Engwura the small gum boughs, which had 
hitherto decorated the top of the /'cr/vv?, were removed, and the 
mound was left bare. All the young men were ordered awa\- 
from the ground, and spent the greater part of the da\- in the 
bed of the river under the charge of the Alatunja of Alice 
Springs. Meanwhile, close b\- the Parra, a group of elder 
men who were already Urliara were assembled. All classes 
were represented, and the next five hours were spent in 
preparations for an important ceremony called the Ouabara 
Unchichera of Imanda. At Imanda, which is known to white 
men as the Bad Crossing on the Hugh River, is an important 
Unchichera or frog totem centre, and during the Engwura a 
large number of ceremonies connected with this were enacted 
as the leader came from this locality, and, though not himself 
belonging to the frog totem, he had inherited a large number 
of ceremonies concerned with this and the wild cat totem 
from his father. He performed the ceremon\- himself On 
his head was a large somewhat flat helmet made in the usual 
way, and completely covered with concentric circles of 
alternate pink and white down. These represented the roots 
of a special gum tree at Imanda. The whole of his back and 
chest as far down as the waist was a complete mass of white 
spots, each of which was encircled by white down ; the}' were 



of various sizes, and indicated frocks of different ages ; on the 
inner side of each thigh were white Hnes rej^resenting the legs 
of fully-grown frogs. On his head he wore a large frog 
Churinga, five feet in length, decorated with bands of down 
and tipped with a bunch of ow! feathers. All around the 
base of this were arranged tufts of black eagle-hawk feathers. 

Kic. 72. 


each fastened on to a stick, so that thc\- radiated from the 
head-dress. About twenty strings, each of them two feet in 
length and made of opossum fur-string, had been covered 
with pink and white down, and ornamented at one end with 
tufts of the black and white tail tijjs of the rabbit-kangaroo. 
These were suspended all round fmrn the head so as almost 



completely to hide the face, which was itself enveloped in a 
mass of down. The Churinga represented a celebrated tree 
at Imanda, and the pendant strings its small roots. When all 


was ready^a shallow pit about a yard in diameter was scooped 
out in the sand, and in this the performer squatted with a 
short stick in his hands. Except for the presence of the 


latter, it was difficult to tell that the elaborate decoration 
concealed from view a man. 

When he was seated in the pit, he sent out three old men 
who were Urliara across the river. Two of them carried 
small Churinga attached to the end of hair-string. The man 
who did not carry one went behind the spot where the young 
men were gathered together, while the other two went one to 
each side. Then the sound of the bull-roarer was heard, as 
the Churinga were whirled round and round, and, amidst 
much shouting and excitement, the young men were driven in 
a body across the river and up the opposite bank on to the 
Engwura ground. Running through the scrub which bordered 
the river, they suddenly came in sight of the performer, who 
was slightly swaying his body from side to side and digging 
the earth up with the stick in his hands. For a moment, 
when first he came in view, the young men halted and lifted 
up their hands as if in astonishment, and then driven up by 
the three Urliara men they ran up to and circled round and 
round the performer shouting, " ivha! lulia! " at the top of their 
voices. The old men stood to one side, and the two with the 
Churinga went round and round the young men as if to drive 
them in as close as possible. This went on for about three 
minutes, when one of the younger men, who was a Purula 
and the son of a dead man of the frog totem of Imanda, laid his 
hands on the shoulders of the performer, who then cea.sed 
moving, and the ceremony was over. After a short pause the 
decorated man got up, and first of all embraced the young 
man who had stopped him, and then went round and did the 
same to various old l^ulthara and Panunga men, and touched 
with a piece of white down the navel of the old Purula man 
of the white bat totem, whose locality la}- close to that with 
which the ceremony was associated.^ Then he sat down and 
called the young Purula man up to assist him in removing 
the decorations. 

After each ceremony the down is carefulh' removed from 
the body, though naturally a not inconsiderable portion ad- 

' Imanda itself is ihe great centre of the frog totem ; but occupying a strip along 
the southern bank of the Hugh River, close by, is a local centre of Ihe Unchipcra 
or small bat totem, while opposite to this on the north bank of the river is a centre 
of the Klkintera or large white bat totem. 



heres so firmly that it must be rubbed off, and so each per- 
formance means the loss of a certain amount. As soon also 


as ever a Churinga or a Xurtiinja has once been used, the 
decorations are taken off Xo Nurtuiija is used more than 
once ; even if two ceremonies follow close upon one another. 



each of them requiring one, a fresh one is made for each. The 
reason of this is that any particular Nurtunja represents and 

is .s\'mbolic of one 
particular object with 
which the ceremony 
is concerned, it may 
be a gum-tree, a 
Hakea, an emu or a 
frog, and, when once 
that particular Niir- 
tuiija has been used 
in a ceremony, it is 
henceforth symbolic 
of one, and only one 
thing, though, so far 
as its appearance and 
structure are con- 
cerned, it may be pre- 
cisely similar to a A^«;'- 
tiiiij'n, which means 
something totally dif- 
ferent. Suppose, for 
example, that, as on 
the last occasion, a 
large Churinga or a 
Nurtunja represents 
a gum-tree, then in 
the mind of the native 
it becomes so closely 
associated with that 
object that it could 
not possibly mean 
anything else; and if a 
precisely similar Chur- 
inga or Nurtunja were 
75. — c KRE.MONY OK TiiK i-KO(; TOTEM Wanted au hour atter- 

OK iMAMM. wards to represent, 

The Churinga reprcsL-nts a special tree at say an em U, then a new 

Imanda, antl the lines of down on the hcl- , , 

met represent the roots of the tree. O'lC must DC made. 


The reason for the showing of the performance just de- 
scribed, was that on the previous da}- the young Purula man 
already referred to had gone out into the bush and had 
brought in a present of game in the form of euro, as an 
offering to the older man who had charge of the Unchichera 
ceremonies of Imanda. This gift of food is called chauarilia, 
and when bringing it in he had told the old man that there 
was food waiting for him along the creek. This remark was 
perfectly understood as a request, though this must not be 
made in any more direct way, that he should be shown some 
ceremony connected with his dead father's totem. With this 
the third phase of the Engwura came to an end. 

The fourth phase was a very well-marked one, as with it 
were ushered in the series of fire ordeals which are especially 
associated with the Engwura. The young men had alread}- 
had by no means an easy time of it, but during the next 
fortnight they were supposed to be under still stricter disci- 
pline, and to have to submit themselves to considerable dis- 
comfort in order to prove themselves worthy of graduating 
as Urliara. 

Just at sunrise the Illpongnnirra were collected together 
close to the Parra. The leader of the Engwura had meanwhile 
appointed three elder men, who were ahead}' Urliara, to look 
after them during the day. About a dozen of the older men 
had provided themselves with small Churinga, and with a 
great amount of shouting, and amidst the strange weird roar 
and screech of the bull-roarers, no two of which sounded 
alike, the Illpongiviirra were driven in a body awa}- from the 
camp. Each man amongst them carried his shield, spear, and 
boomerang, for it was their duty now to go out into the 
bush all day hunting game for the benefit of the old men 
who stayed in camp performing ceremonies. The idea was to 
test still further the endurance of the }-oung men and their 
obedience to their elders. Out in the bush they are not sup- 
posed to eat any of the game which the}' catch, but must 
bring it all in to the old men who may, or ma}' not, give them 
a share of it when they return to camp. Whether this rule is 
rigidly adhered to on the part of the younger men may per- 
haps be doubted, the temptation offered b}' the sight of a fat 


little wallaby must be very strong to a full-grown young man 
who has not been having too much to cat for some three 
or four weeks past, and though old men go out in charge, it 
can be scarcely possible to keep a strict watch over all of the 

Avoiding on this, the first morning of the new departure in 
the ceremonies, the women's camp, which lay out of sight of 
the Engwura ground on the other side of the river, the 
Illpongiimrra were taken out through a defile amongst the 
ranges on the west side of the camp. As the day wore on 
it became evident that there was unusual excitement and stir 
in the women's camp. One of the older ones had been in- 
formed that the I/Zpoiigwurra would return in the evening, 
and that they must be ready to receive them. She had 
been through this part of the ceremony before, and knew 
what had to be done, but the great majority of the women 
required instructing. About five o'clock in the evening all the 
women and children gathered together on the fiat stretch of 
ground on the east side of the river. The Panunga and 
Bukhara separated themselves from the Purula and Kumara. 
I'^ach part)' collected grass and sticks with which to make a 
fire, the two being separated by a distance of about one 
hundred yards. A man was posted on the top of a hill 
overlooking the Engwura ground on the \\est, and just before 
sunset he gave the signal that the Illpongivurra were ap- 
proaching. They stopped for a short time before coming 
into camp, at a spot at which the\- dejjosited the game secured, 
and where also they decorated themselves with fresh twigs 
and leaves of the Eremophila bush. were jjlaced 
under the head-bands, so that the}' drooped down over the 
forehead, under the arm-bands, and through the nasal sc])tum. 
Then, forming a dense square, they came out from the defile 
amongst the ranges. Several of the Urlianx who were carrying 
Churinga met them, some going to either side, and some 
going to the rear of the scjuare. Then commenced the 
swinging of the bull-roarers. The women on the tip-toe of 
excitement lighted their fires, to which were sujjplies of 
long grass stalks and dry boughs. The Il/pojigivuna were 
driven forwards into the bed (jf the ri\er, pausing every now 


and then as if reluctant to come any further on. CHmbing^ 
up the eastern bank, thex- halted about twenty yards from 
the first group of women, holding their shields and boughs 
of Eremophila over their heads, swa}'ing to and fro and 
shouting loudly "7v/irr! ivJirr !'' The Panunga and Bukhara 
women to whom they came first stood in a bod}- behind their 
fire, each woman, with her arms bent at the elbow and the 
open hand with the i)aln"i uppermost, moved u]j and down on 
the wrist as if inviting the men to come on, while she called 
out " kuttn, kutta, kiittay keeping all the while one leg stiff, 
while she bent the other and gently swayed her body. This 
is a ver)- characteristic attitude and movement of the women 
during the performance of certain ceremonies in which the}' 
take a part. After a final pause the Illpongivnrra came close 
up to the women, the foremost amongst whom then seized 
the dry grass and boughs, and setting fire to them, threw 
them on to the heads of the men, who had to shield them- 
selves, as best they could, with their boughs. The men with 
the bull-roarers were meanwhile running round the Illpoug- 
ivurra and the women, whirling them as rapidly as possible ; 
and after this had gone on for a short time, the I///>o)igivurra 
suddenly turned and went to the second group of women, 
followed, as the}' did so, by those of the first, and here the 
same performance was again gone through. Sudden ]}■ once 
more the men wheeled round and, followed by both parties of 
women who were now throwing fire more vigorously than 
ever, they ran in a bod}' towards the river. On the edge <jf 
the bank the women stopped, turned round and ran back, 
shouting as the}' did so, to their camp. The Illpongzi'urra 
crossed the river bed and then ran on to the Engwura ground 
where, sitting beside the Parra, was a man decorated for the 
performance of an Unjiamba ceremony. Still holding their 
shields, boomerangs, and boughs of Eremophila, the}' ran round 
and round him shouting "'wlia! zvlia .'" Then came a moment's 
pause, after which all the men commenced to run round the 
Parra itself, halting in a bod}', when they came to the north 
end to shout '' iv/ta .' zuJia ! ivhrr .' ^' more loudly than before. 
W'hen this had been done several times they stopped, and 
then each man laid down his shield and boomerangs 


and placed his boughs of Eremophila so that they all 
formed a line on the east side of and parallel to the 
Farm, at a distance of two yards from this. When this was 
done the Illpongivurra came and first of all sat down in a row, 
so that they just touched the opposite side of the Parra to 
that on which the boughs were placed. In less than a 
minute's time they all lay down, in perfect silence, upon 
their backs, quite close to one another, with each man's head 
resting on the Parra} All save one or two old men moved 
away, and these few stayed to watch the Illpongwiirra. For 
some time not a sound was to be heard. None of them might 
speak or move without the consent of the old men in whose 
charge they were. By means of gesture language one or two 
of them asked for permission to go to the river and drink at 
a small soakage which had been made in the sand. In a 
short time they returned, and then it was after dark before 
they were allowed to rise. The sudden change from the 
wild dance round the performer and the Parra, accompanied 
by the loud shouting of the men whose bodies were half 
hidden by thick clouds of dust, which the strong light of 
the setting sun illuminated, was most striking. 

About nine o'clock the men got up and began the usual 
singing, running sideways along b\' the Parra, shouting loudly 
as they did so. Shortly before midnight a curious ceremony 
was performed, which was associated with certain Oruncha 
men of Imanda. There were four performers, and the 
ceremony was divided into two parts. Three men were 
engaged in the first and more important scene. A long hole, 
just big enough to hold a man's body, but not deep enough 
to conceal it, was scooped out. In this, at full length, one of 
the men lay while a second knelt down over his legs and the 
third knelt at the head end. These two were supposed to be 
Oruncha men, engaged in baking the man in the earth oven, 
and each of them with two boomerangs imitated the action of 
basting him and of raking the embers up over his body, whilst 
he himself imitated admirably the hissing and spluttering 
noise of cooking meat. After a few minutes the three got up 

' They have to lie down so that the Pa?ra [is between them and the women's 
camp, and the latter must always lie to the east of the Parra, 


and joined the audience, and then out of the darkness — for the 
fire beside the Parra served onl}- to h'i;hl up tlic ceremonial 
ijjround — came a decorated man who was supposed to repre- 
sent an Alcheringa man of the froi^ totem. He moved about 
from spot to spot, sniffing as if he detected the smell of 
cooking, but could not detect where it came from. After a 
minute or two he joined the audience and the performance 

There was not much rest to be had that night ; the 
Illpoiigzinirra lay down again while the older men close to 
them kept up an incessant singing, and at two o'clock all 
were called up to witness the performance of a ceremony of 
the wild cat totem, in which three men took part, who were 
supposed to be j^crforming an ordinar\- dancing festival or 
altherta in the Alcheringa. Just at daybreak another cere- 
mony was read)', which was again connected with the frog 
totem of Imanda. It was performed b\' one of the oldest 
men present, the old white bat man, and he was decorated to 
represent a particular tree at Imanda, which suddcnh- appeared 
full-grown on the spot, where an Alcheringa man of the frog 
totem went into the ground ; it became the Naiija tree of the 
spirit part of him which remained behind associated with his 

It was now getting daylight. The leader decided upon 
three Uiliara, who were to accompany and take charge of the 
Illpongivurra during the day, and just after the sun rose they 
were once more dri\en out of the luigwura ground amidst the 
whirling of bull-roarers. The old men spent the day in camp 
preparing two or three ceremonies, but reserving a somewhat 
elaborate one for the benefit of the Illpongwiirra, who were 
driven in at dusk by way (jf the women's camp, where the fire- 
throwing was repeated. Once more the ceremony of first 
sitting and then lying down* by the Parra was enacted ; in 
fact this was carried out c\ery evening during the next two 

At midnight the lllpo)igivnrra were aroused to witness a 
ceremony of the white bat totem. Eleven men — the greatest 
number which we have seen taking ])art in any one of these 
sacred ceremonies — were decorated. Ten of them stood in a 

A A 


row faciiii^ and parallel to the Parra, and the\- were all con- 
nected together by a rope of human hair-striny,", which was 
decorated with pink and white down, and was passed through 
the hair waist-girdle of each man. Four of them had 
Churinga on their lieads, and were supposed to represent 
special gum trees near to Imanda, the long rope being the 
roots of the trees ; the other six were supposed to be bats 
resting in the trees. The ele\enth man was free from the rope 
and his decoration differed from that of the rest, who were 
ornamented with white pipe-clay and red and white down, 
while he had a long band of charcoal on each side of his bocK', 
outlined with red down. He began dancing up and down in 
front of the others, holding his body in a stooping position, 
and making all the while a shrill whistling noise, like that 
made by a small bat as it flies backwards and forwards. In 
iiis hands he carried twigs which he rubbed together. The 
ten men meanwliile mo\ed in line, Hrst to the right and then 
to the left, and with the other man dancing in front of them 
the whole formed a curious scene in the flickering light of the 
camp fire. At a signal from the leader of the ICngwura two 
men went out from the audience, each carr)ing a long spear 
which was held behind the line of performers so as to touch 
the back of each man — the signal for them to stop. luich 
performer in turn touched with a piece of down first the 
stomach of the leader, and then that of the old white bat man 
to whom the ceremoii)' belonged. 

During the next da)' ceremonies were held as usual, but 
there was no fire-throwing. At sunrise on the following 
morning the ///pongwinni were (lri\en out of camp to the 
sound of bull-roarers, b\' wa\' of the women's camp, where 
they again had fire thrown over them, and in the exening the 
same ceremony was relocated when, just at sunset, the)' were 
brought in to camp over the ranges on the eastern side. 

The follow ing day saw a slight change in the programme. 
The IllpoHgzvurra were taken out to the west, not going near to 
the women's camp. During the day news was brought in of 
the death of a very old and very celebrated Rai/tc/iaica, or 
medicine man, who lived far awa)' out to the west. We were 
assured that his death was due to the e\il magic of a native 

A A 2 


who lived at a place called Owen Springs on the Hugh 
River — an instance of the fact that the native is quite unable 
to realise death from any natural cause, as the old man in 
question had died simply from senile decay. The sounds of 
wailing came all day long from the camp of the women, 
who struck each other blows with their waddies and cut 
themselves with knives. 

During the day the old men performed ceremonies con- 
cerned with a group of wild cat people who, in the Alcheringa, 
marched out from the south of what is now Oodnadatta, and 
then turned northwards and followed a track which led them 
across the west part of the jDrescnt Arunta countr}- and through 
certain spots such as Illamurta in the James Range. At 
sunset the Illpongivjirra came in from tiie west and found two 
ceremonies prepared, one belonging to the liulthara and 
Panunga men, to which they went first. After dancing round 
the performer, who represented one of the Ulpmerka of the 
plum-tree totem sitting at the foot of a Niirtunja, they came 
to the second, which belonged to the Purula and Kumara. 
This ceremony was associated with the frog totem of Imanda, 
and was performed b}- two men, both of whom had Churinga 
on their heads, and had their bodies decorated with patches 
and lines of down representing frogs and roots of trees. First 
the IllpiUigivuiTa danced round them and then rushed off to 
the Parra, round and round which they ran, raising clouds 
of dust through \\hich they could be diml)- seen. After a 
short pause and led by the two frog performers, mIio had 
removed the Churinga from their heads and carried each tw^o 
boomerangs which they kept striking together, they ran across 
the river to the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was 
performed in the usual wa)-, after which the Illpongzvurra 
came back to camj) and lay down beside the Parra. 

When it was dark the men were arranged in a double line 
close to the Parra, and then, with their bodies bent almost 
double, their arms extended in front, and tiicir hands clasped 
together, the\' moved, first in one direction and then in the 
other, parallel to the length of the mound, stamping on the 
ground as they did .so and .shouting '' wlia ! tvlia ! zvhrr!" 
at the top of their voices. This peculiar dance is one which 

' :'• v^ 

\ ■ 





is especially performed by the members of the Ilpirra tribe 
during the course of the Engwura, and as one or two Ilpirra 
men had come down to take part in this Engwura, it was 
danced on this occasion. Just before midnight a wild cat 
ceremony was performed, and it was not until early in the 
morning that the dancing and singing ceased, and the 
Illp07igivurra were allowed to take a little rest. 

While the Illpongivurra were out in the bush during the 
next day they had to undergo the first of another form of fire 
ordeal, an account of which will be given subsequently in 
connection with its second performance. In camp the old 
men performed a ceremony called the Ingivurniuga inkinja, 
which is associated with the emu totem of a spot close to 
Imanda. The Quabara belongs to the Alatunja of the locality, 
and he requested two men, one a Panunga of the snake, and 
the other a Bukhara of the wild cat totem, to perform. Each 
man was decorated with the usual head-dress, the front of 
which, as well as their face and beard, was covered with white 
down, while on each side of the body and extending down to 
the knee, was a line of circular patches of charcoal edged w ith 
white down. These patches were supposed to represent 
the skulls of slain and eaten men. The two performers were 
called ult/iana, that is, the spirits of dead men, and in this 
instance they were supposed to have arisen from the bones of 
two men who had been eaten. They came up from the creek 
and remained at first crouching behind and hidden by a small 
bush from the sight of the old men who gathered by the 
Parra. Then they got up and came on, each of them bending 
forwards and supporting himself by a stick in either hand, as 
if they were decrepit old men who could hardly walk. For 
some time they prowled about looking first to one side and 
then to the other, as if they were in .search of something ; 
and, following an irregular course, came towards the Parra, 
where the old men were seated beating the ground with 

At sunset the lllpoiign'urra once more came in by way of 
the women's camp where the fire-throwing took place, and 
then, on the Engwura ground, they stood in a long line beside 
the Parra watching the j^erformance of an emu ceremony, 



which consisted in a man decorated with a tall head-dress 
tipped with a bunch of emu feathers and having his bod>- 




The two performers are supposed to be men who have been killed and eaten and 
come to life again. They are in search of their slayers. The circular patches 
represent skulls of eaten men. 

decorated with a large number of parallel lines of white down 
walkin" backwards and forwards in the aimless wa\' of an emu. 


That niLjht was at last a quiet one, as even- one seemed 
to be gcttin<^ somewhat exhausted. The next morning a fish 
ceremony was performed, and at sunset when the Illpongicurra 
came in — this time direct on to the Engwura ground — a 
ceremony called the Quabara Ungamillia of Ulkni-wukulla was 
prepared. Ungamillia is the evening star and Ulkni-wukulla 
is the name of a spot close to a gap in the Macdonnell 
Range, about fifteen miles to the west of Alice Springs. A 
Kumara woman of that totem is supposed to have originated 
and to have lived there during the Alcheringa. The natives 
say, "she had a Niirtunja and lived alone." The woman's name 
was Auadaua, and there is now living near to Bond Springs a 
woman who is the reincarnation of that particular individual. 

The Alice Springs natives have a legend with regard to the 
evening star, according to which it goes down every evening 
into a big white stone at Ulkni-wukulla, where Auadaua sat in 
the Alcheringa. The stone lies in the middle of a tract of 
countr}', which, just except this spot, belongs to the large 
lizard people. If a woman imagines that a child enters her 
when she is at that stone, then it is one of the spirit 
individuals who belonged to one or other of the Churinga which 
Auadaua carried with her and left behind when she went 
into the earth, where the stone now stands ; and therefore the 
child must belong to the evening star totem ; if, however, she 
thinks it entered her in the bed of the creek close b)', then it 
belongs to the lizard totem. 

Late at night an emu ceremon\' was performed, and the 
whole evening was occupied until midnight in singing by the 
Parra, the old men as before sitting in the midst of a large 
circle of young men, all being huddled close together. On 
occasions such as this the singing is always a monotonous 
repetition of a few phrases such as " the sand hills are good," 
"the Achilpa walked in the Alcheringa to Therierita," "Bind 
the Xurtunja round u ith rings and rings," and so on ; and it is 
wonderful to .see for how many hours they will continue, 
without apparently their spirits flagging or their voices 
becoming husk)-. 

The next da)-, as the thermometer registered 114° in the 
.shade, it was too hot for even the old men to venture on a 


36 r 

performance until late in the afternoon, but as a fitting 
close to a warm day the Illpongwurra were brought in by wax 

Kit.. Si. — cp:remony of jhe kangaroo totem of undiara. to illustrate 


of the women's camp, and on this occasion some of the men 
as well as the women took a share in the fire-throwing, 


scorching more than usual some of the less fortunate men 
who did not efficiently shield themselves with boughs. On 
the Engwura ground an Unjiamba ceremony was pcrfDimcd 
w hen the Illpongiviirra came across the river. 

During the next two days various ceremonies of the 
kangaroo, wild cat and bandicoot totems were performed, the 
most important being a kangaroo one concerned with 
Undiara near to the Finke river at Henbury. The Nurtuiija 
for this ^\■as made of twenty long spears lashed together and 
reached a height of eighteen feet (Fig. 8i). To it were 
attached fourteen Churinga, and the ceremony was performed 
just at daylight. At night-time the singing was mainly con- 
cerned with the putting up of the Kauaua or sacred pole, the 
erection of which marked the close approach of the termination 
of the Engwura. 

In connection with one of the wild cat ceremonies a 
somewhat curious performance took place. The Nnrtiinja 
used represented one which in the Alcheringa had belonged 
to wild cat men, who had at first stayed for some time close to 
Imanda, and at a later time had carried it away with them 
when they travelled northwards to a place called Arapera, 
with which the ceremony now performed was associated. It 
was made by men of the northern groups belonging to the 
Bukhara and Panunga moict}-, and, whilst it was being made, 
no southern men were present. When it was completed, but 
some time before the performance of the ceremony for use in 
which it had been made, the northern men called uj) the 
southern men and showed them the Nurtunja. One special 
man who belonged to the wild cat group near to Imanda, 
from which the Alcheringa Nurtunja had been originally 
taken, was first of all embraced by one or two of the 
northern men, and then led up to the Nurtunja, upon which his 
hands were pressed. Then the leader of the ICngwura, \\ ho 
also belonged to Imanda, was similarly embraced, and his 
hands placed on the Nurtunja^ the idea being, so the natives 
said, to assuage the grief of these incn, which was caused by 
the sight of a Nurtunja which had passed away from their 
country to the north and so into the pos.session of another 
group of wild cat people. 



The ceremonies now became more and more interesting, 
though the exact meaning and significance of some of them 
it is impossible to state. The leader of the Engwura remained 


in camp preparing, with the aid of the men of his locality, a 
special sacred object which consisted of two large wooden 
Churinga, each three feet in length. They were bound 


together with human hair-string so as to be completely- 
concealed from view, and then the upper three quarters were 
surrounded with rings of white down, put on with great care, 
and so closely side by side, that when complete the appearance 
of rings was quite lost. The top was ornamented with a tuft 
of owl feathers. When it was made, it was carefully hidden 
in the bed of the creek, so that none of the Illpongwurra 
could see it. This object is called the Anibilycrikirra. 

Whilst this was being made, three of the older men, who 
had been especially associated with the leader throughout the 
ceremonies, had gone out of camp across the hills to the west, 
and had cut down a young gum tree, the trunk of which was 
about nine inches in diameter and some twenty feet in height. 
This was to serve as the Kauaua, and it had to be cut down 
with care, as it was not allowed to touch the ground until it 
was brought on to the Engwura ground. The branches were 
lopped off and it was stripped of its bark, and then, while the 
Illpong'wiin'a were away in the bush, it was carried into camp 
and placed out of sight in the bed of the creek. 

As usual the Illpongivurra returned at sunset, coming in from 
the west without, on this occasion, going to the women's camp, 
as the last fire-throwing ceremon\- by the women had been held. 
At the northern end of the ground an Ulpiiicrka ceremon)* was 
held, and then they came on to the Parram front of which sat 
the leader of the Engwura, supported on one side by a 
Bukhara, and on the other by a Kumara man ; these two 
were to assist him during the night. lY^fect silence was 
maintained while the men placed their branches of Eremophila 
on the long heap which had been gradually accumulating, and 
then came and lay down with their heads upon the Farm, the 
ground in front of which had been dug up b)- the older men 
during the day, so as to make it softer to lie upon. 

L'ntil shortl}' before nine o'clock perfect silence was main- 
tained by the Illpongivitrra, and even the old men only spoke 
in low whispers, and then very rarely, as the)' moved quietly 
about, the three men seated in front of the Illpougnnirra 
remaining motionless and silent. Then a number of small 
fires were made, and bundles of sticks, each one about two 
feet long, were arranged in radiating groups with one end in 


the fire. There would be from four to eight of these radiating 
bundles in each of the fires. When the leader, who remained 
seated, gave the signal, the old men told the Illpongii'urra to 
get up. This they did, while a few of the older men went 
across the river to where the women and children were gathered 
together, and stood amongst them, holding sticks and boughs 
over their heads, and telling the women to do the same, and 
to protect themselves as best they could. Then at a signal 
from one of the old men on the Engwura ground, each of the 
Illpongwiirra took a bundle of fire-sticks, and in a body they 
went towards the river. On the bank the\- broke up and 
rushed pell-mell across the bed and on up the opposite bank, 
dividing, as they ran across the level stretch between the 
river and the women's camp, into three parties, one going to 
each side of the women and one to the front of them. 
When the}' were twent}- \'ards awa}- from where the women 
stood, and still running on, all, at a given signal, hurled their 
fire-sticks in rapid succession over the heads of the women and 
children ; hundreds of them whizzed like rockets through the 
darkness ; the loud shouting of the men, the screaming of the 
women and children, and the howling of scores of dogs 
produced a scene of indescribable confusion. Suddenly all 
once more became dark, the men turned back, and, running as 
rapidly as they could, crossed the river and reached the Parra, 
where they again laid themselves down, and once more there 
was perfect silence in the camp. They were not again allowed 
to mo\e under any pretext. W^hile they were away the 
leader, who had remained on the Eng^vura ground, had taken 
the Ainbilyerikirra in his hands, and with his arms linked in 
those of his supporters, he lifted the former up and down 
without any cessation, save for a few seconds at a time, during 
the whole night, ^^'hen the Illpongivurra returned from their 
fire-throwing, he was hidden from their view by a group of 
old men who sat down in front of him, so that they did not 
actually see him until morning. 

All night long the Illpongunirra la}- silent. One old man 
who had been told off to watch them, walked backwards and 
forwards along the line, now and then joining in the singing 
which, after a short time, was started by the old men, but in 


which the Jllpongu-nrra took no part, or haltiiiij in his walk to 
whisper instructions or information about the Alcheringa to 
one or other of the young men. There was very Httle rest to 
be had, the monotonous rising and falHng of the Ambilyerikirra 
went on without ceasing, as also did the singing of the old 
men, the aged white bat being particularh- prominent. 
Shortly after five o'clock the Illpongivnrm, who had been 
instructed by the old men keeping watch over them what 
the)' had to do, were roused. Then, for the first time since 
nine o'clock on the previous evening — that \\as after a stretch 
of eight hours' duration — the leader and the two men sup- 
porting him ceased from lifting the Anibilycrikirra up and 
down. There was little wonder that the}' looked tired and 
haggard, but even yet their work was not quite done. Getting 
up. they moved to the north end of the Parra, the two sides- 
men still retaining hold of the leader's arms. The Illpong- 
ivurra went to the line of rvctta and, having taken boughs of 
this, arranged themselves so as to form a solid square behind 
the leaders. Most of the older men remained on the 
Engwura ground, from which (jne of them, the watcher over 
the Illpongiinirra, shouted instructions across to the women. 
The main party, headed by the three men bearing the 
Ambilyerikirra, and accompanied b>' a few of the older men, 
moved in the form of a solid square out from the Kngwura 
ground, over the river and up the opposite bank to where the 
women stood grouped together. All stood beckoning to the 
men to come on in the way alread}- described, and at the 
same time they called quieth' '' kutta, kiitta, knttar The 
party approached slowly and in ])erfect silence, and when 
within five yards of the front rank of the women, the men 
who carried the Ambilyerikirra threw themselves headlong 
on the ground, hiding the sacred object from \iew. No 
sooner had they done this than the Illpongicnrra threw them- 
selves on the toj), so that onl\- th.e heads of the three men 
could be seen projecting beyond the pile of bodies. Then, 
after remaining thus for two minutes, the Illpoug^vurra got 
up and formed into a square facing awa}' from the w omen, 
after which the three leaders rapidly jumped uj:), turned their 
backs on the women, and were hustled through the square 



which the\- then led back to the Engwura ground, and with 
this the Avibilyerikirra ceremon}' came to an end. 

As will be noticed, there are three leading incidents ; the 
first is the throwing of fire-sticks over the women, the second 
the lying down of the Illpongwurra all night without moving, 
while the Ambilyerikirra, incessanth- rising and falling, is 


held upright before them ; the third is the carrying across of 
the sacred Churinga to the women's camp. 

All that the natives can say in explanation of this is that 
the rushing across to the women's camp represents an attack 
by a party of wild cat men, who are Illpongzuurra and not yet 
made Urliara, upon another party, and that the lying down 
quietly in front of the Ambilyerikirra represents the " taming " 
of the wild Illpongn'iirra under the influence of the sacred 


Churinga. Thc\' also say that if from an\' cause the 
strength of the men wlio are lifting up anrl down the 
Churinga should fail, then the Illpofignuina will die. They 
have no idea as to what is the meaning of the third incident 
— the carrying over of the Churinga to the women's camp. 

Whilst an)' explanation must at best be a mere conjecture, 
it is perhaps worth while suggesting that the whole ceremony 
may be commemorative of a reformatory movement which must 
at one time have taken place in the tribe in regard to the 
question of cannibalism. Traces of this still linger on, but 
only traces, and two or three of the ceremonies which had 
been performed during the few da)-s immediatel)' preceding 
that of the Auibilyerikirra seem to show that at a much 
earlier time it was practised to a much greater extent. The 
natives sa}- that the idea of attacking another party, as 
represented in the first incident, is connected with eating 
the men who were killed. This, taken in conjunction with 
the fact that the second incident indicates a taming of the 
wild men whose natures are thereby made less fierce, may 
perhaps point back to a time when some powerful man, 
c)r group of men, introduced a reformation in regard to the 
habit of cannibalism. The Ainbilycn'kirra is a ceremony of 
the Unchichera or frog totem, the Imanda centre of which 
is one of the most important in the tribe, as close by are also 
local centres of the Achilpa or wild cat the Elkintera or 
white bat, and the Unchipera or little bat totems. Engwuras 
were held in the Alcheringa, and one tradition relates how, 
while the frog jjeople, aided by the white bats and the little 
bats, were holding one at Imanda, the Achilpa gathered there 
also and took part in it, and were made Urliara by the 
Unchichera men, after which they started on their travels to 
the north. 

One important feature of the Kngwura is that it is 
supposed to make the men who pass through it more kindly 
natured, and perhaps we have in the few traditions bearing 
upon the point sufficient evidence to warrant the conjecture 
that the Unchichera men whom we know to have formed an 
influential totem introduced the reformatory movement in the 
matter of cannibalism. If .so it will explain the fact of the 


Ambilyerikirra ceremony being associated with the Unchichera 
totem, and we can see why the wild Illpongwurra who rush 
with fire-sticks over to attack the women should be represented 
as Achilpa men who have not been made into Urliara. 

The third incident, though the natives can give no 
explanation of it, may possibly be capable of being explained 
somewhat as follows. It takes place after the taming of the 
wild Illpongwurra, who are, it will be noticed, led across, 
following the old men and the sacred Churinga by means of 
which their natures are supposed to have been changed. 
Instead of on this occasion attacking the strange party, they 
fall down in front of them as if to show that their fierce 
nature has been changed. The showing of the Ambilyerikirra 
to the women is very difficult to understand, but in this 
instance it may be pointed out that they are supposed to 
represent the members of a strange camp, men and women 
included, not merely women, and, further, that they represent 
individuals of the Alcheringa, living at a time when women 
not only saw but carried about with them Churinga and 
Nurtunjas. At the Engwura, when the men are living 
together separated from the women, if there is to be a strange 
party for the Illpongwurra to attack, it must be composed of 
the women, to whom the whole affair is a matter of the 
deepest mystery, which is probably not a little heightened by 
the small part which, every now and then, they are allowed to 
take in it. They do not actually see the Churinga, though 
doubtless the older ones amongst them are quite aware of the 
nature of the Ambilyerikirra, but that it is a most unusual 
occurrence is emphasised by the fact that the moment the 
men come close to the women they fall flat down so as 
completely to hide from view the sacred object, and when 
they arise they rapidly turn round and are immediately 
surrounded by the other men. 

At the fire-throwing in the women's camp it will have been 
noticed that the men who carry the Churinga actually go close 
up to the women and children, but the Churinga are kept in 
such rapid and continual movement that there is no chance of 
their being actually seen ; still there remains the fact that on 
these two occasions women are present when Churinga are 

B B 


used, whereas there is no doubt whatever that the most severe 
punishment follows even the accidental seeing of one of them 
by a woman under any other circumstance. We could get no 
explanation whatever from the natives in regard to the matter, 
except the inevitable one that it had always been so in the 
Alcheringa ; and it can only be added that, as a matter of fact, 
what little the women do see simply serves to add to their 

It was still early morning when the Illpoiigtuurra returned to 
the Engwura ground from the women's camp, and, just after 
sunrise, they were sent out with instructions to remain away 
for two days. In camp everything was quiet, as the night had 
been an exhausting one, and no one, except perhaps one or 
two of the younger ones, had had any sleep. During the day 
about thirty short sticks made out of gum-tree wood were 
prepared. Each was about an inch in diameter and from six 
to nine inches in length. They were carefully rubbed with 
red ochre, and then later on in the day the leader hid them in 
the loose soil forming the Parra mound. These sticks are 
called UncJiichera irnoipa, they may not be seen by women, 
and are supposed to represent }'oung frogs. When it became 
darktheolder men assembled by the Arrr^t from which the sticks 
were taken, as if they were frogs hiding in the ground, as most 
of the Central Australian species do, and then, accompanied 
by the continuous clunk, clunk of the sticks, the one held in 
the right hand being allowed to fall upon the one in the left^ 
the men sang for two or three hours. 

On the next day, while the Illpongivurra were all far away 
out in the bush, the sacred pole, or Kaiiaiia, was first of all 
ornamented and then erected in the middle of the ceremonial 
ground. It had been lying all night in the bed of the creek, 
where the preparations for ceremonies were made, and in the 
morning the men who had brought it in began to decorate it. 
First of all one of these men, a Kumara, bled him.self, opening 
for the a vein in his arm. From this he allowed 
blood to flow until there was enough to fill five times over the 
haft of a shield. This wasquite the equivalent of five half pints,^ 
and, as if that were not enough, he ended by walking slowly 
once up and down by the side of the pole, allowing the blood 



to spurtle over it in the form of a thin stream. He did not 
seem to be any the worse for the loss of so much blood ; in 
fact, during the whole Engwura, an astonishing quantity was 

H'.. S4. 

riii. i.RL'_ 1 i'_'N 'ji III]-: ;ACRKi-> r'ji.i., ''L kal"aua ; the max who 


used, and the natives appeared to think nothing whatever 
about it, no one objecting for a moment to open a vein in his 
arm or, just as frequently, to obtain it from the subincised 

B B 2 


urethra, these being the two parts from which the blood is 
obtained. The blood in the shields was then smeared with a 
small brush, made of a stick and opossum fur-string wound 
round one end, on to the pole, until the latter was reddened 
all over, and, being upwards of twenty feet in length, it took, 
as may be imagined, a considerable amount. Then to the top 
was affixed a large bunch of eagle-hawk feathers ; white Chilara 
or head-bands were tied round under this ; then Alpita tail 
tips were suspended in two bunches, one on either side, and 
just below the Chilara a long nose bone was attached, — in fact 
the decoration was just that of a human head. Then a itw 
Churinga, which might be of any totem, were strung on near 
to the top, and the pole thus decorated was brought on to the 
ground.^ A hole was dug two feet deep by means of a 
pointed digging stick, and in this it was firmly implanted at a 
distance of about six yards from the Parra and opposite to the 
middle of the mound. 

In the early part of the afternoon of this day the III- 
pongivurra had to submit themselves for the second time to 
an ordeal by fire. A secluded spot amongst the ranges some 
two miles away from Alice Springs was selected, and here, 
while the young men rested by the side of a water-hole in the 
bed of the Todd, the Urliara, who were in charge of them, 
went to the chosen spot and made a large fire of logs and 
branches about three yards in diameter. Then the young 
men, of whom forty were present, were called up, and putting 
green bushes on the fire they were made to lie down full 
length upon the smoking boughs, which prevented them from 
coming into contact with the red-hot embers beneath. The 
heat and smoke were stifling, but none of them were allowed 
to get up until they received the j:)ermission of the Urliara. 
After they had all been on once, each one remaining for about 
four or five minutes on the fire, the old men came to the 
conclusion that they must repeat the process, and so making 
up the fire again, they were once more put on in the midst of 
dense clouds of smoke, one of the older men lifting up the 
green boughs at one side with a long pole so as to allow of the 

' The possible significance of tlic Kanaiia is dealt with in connection with the 
description of the decoration of objects used during sacred ceremonies, Chaji. XIX. 



access of air and ensure the smouldering of the leaves and 
green wood. There was no doubt as to the trying nature of 
the ordeal, as, apart from the smoke, the heat was so great 
that, after kneeling down on it to see what it was like, we got 
up as quickly as possible, and of course the natives had 
no protection in the way of clothes. 

When this was over, the Illpongivurra rested for an hour by 

l-IG. 85. — Tilt: n.I.rOM.W TKKA ON THE FIRE. 

the side of the waterhole, for the day was a hot one, the 
thermometer registering II0'5° F. in the shade, and 156" F. in 
the sun, while the ceremony was in progress. 

Later on in the afternoon they came into camp and 
witnessed the last of the ceremonies prior to the final fire 
ceremony which was to take place in the women's camp. 
Two men, one a Purula of the emu totem and the other a 


Kumara of the little bat totem, performed a Ouabara belong- 
ing to the frog totem of Imanda. Each was decorated on 
the head and bod}' with longitudinal bands of white down 
while the Purula man carried a Churinga five feet long on his 
head. The Illpougwuna having put down their shields, 
boomerangs, and boughs of ivetta, stood in a long line by 
the side of the Parra facing the Kmiana, which they now saw 
for the first time. Then the two performers came up from 
the bed of the creek which lay on the opposite side of the 
ground, the man with the Churinga walking behind the other 
one and carrying a shield at his back. Both at first adopted 
the high knee action, but when about thirty feet from the 
Kauaiia, the front man suddenly knelt down and then moved 
forward, jumping on his knees with his hands behind his back. 
The idea is that the front man was a frog which suddenl>- 
jumps out of a tree, the latter being one of the special gum- 
trees growing at Imanda. When this was over the Illpong- 
ivurra la}' down b\- the side (jf the Parra for two or three 

After dark a dozen (jr more fires were lighted around the of the Kauaiia, and around these the men were grouped, 

each ab-uwara amongst the elder men taking charge of and 

decorating his proteges. That night no one in either the 

men's or the women's camp went to sleep. On the opposite 

side of the river to the Engwura ground, the light of the 

women's camp fires could be seen flickering amongst the trees. 

.All night long also the old men kept shouting across to the 

women, who answered back again, and the scene was one of 

great excitement. An old man would shout out, " What are 

\()U doing?" and the women would answer, " We arc making a 

fire." " What are you going to do with the fire? " to which the 

reply would come, " We are going to burn the men." Then 

the old men would dare the women to come across into the 

l^ngwura camp ; one ancient Panunga man was especially 

active in calling to his Mura woman, to whom under ordinary 

circumstances it would not be permi.ssible for him to speak in 

this way, calling her by name and saying, " Urliwatchera, are 

\ou there ? " and she would answer, " Yes, I am here ; what is 

it?" and then he would call out to her to come across. The 


men would ask the women derisively if they were going to 
send the Kurdaitclia after them, and, indeed, this kind of 
badinage was kept up at intervals all night long. In the 
women's camp all were gathered together at one spot, and 
here, side by side, the Panunga and Ikilthara women on the 
one hand, and the Purula and Kuinara on the other, dug out, 
each of them, a shallow pit about two }-ards in diameter, and 
in each of these, towards daybreak, they made a fire. 

In the Engwura camj) it was a busy and also a picturesque 
scene. The leader had, during the day, consulted the older 
men who were especially associated with liini, and it had 
been decided what brands should be painted on the various 
young men. Each brand was distinctive of some special 
totem, but the most striking point in connection with the 
painting was that the brand of any particular individual had 
no relationship of necessity to his own totem, or to that of 
the man who painted him. It was jiurcl}' a matter of what 
the old men, and esjjecially the leader of the Engwura, 
decided upon. The following cases will illustrate the j)oint :— 

A Panunga man of the snake totem decorated an Umbitchana 
man of the plum tree totem with a brand of the frog totem. 

A Kumara man of the wild cat totem painted a Bukhara 
man of the emu totem with a brand of the kangaroo totem. 

An Appungerta man of the witchetty grub totem painted 
an Umbitchana man of the wild cat totem with a brand of 
the Hakea totem. 

A Kumara man of the little bat totem painted an 
Appungerta man of the bandicoot totem with a brand of the 
frog totem. 

A Bukhara man of the wild cat totem painted a Purula 
man of the native pheasant totem with a brand of the same 
totem, this being the only instance in w hich a man was painted 
with a brand of his own totem, and the old men said that 
there was no special reason for its being done in this special 

A Purula man of the emu totem painted an Uknaria man 
of the lizard totem with a brand of the frog totem. 

For this strange want of relationship between the totems of 
the men who did the dccoratinfr and those who were 


decorated, and still more for the total absence of any between 
the man who was decorated and the totem with a brand of 
which he was decorated, we could find out no reason what- 
ever. Certainly the natives have no idea why it is so. 

The materials used in the painting were charcoal, red and 
\ellow ochre, white pipeclay and wad. In some few cases 
bands of wad edged with white down were drawn on the 
chest, but in almost all cases the totemic brand was confined 
to the back, so that, as the Illpongn'iirra might neither speak 
to, nor in the presence of, their ab-tnoara men who were doing 
the painting — a rule strictly observed during the decorating — 
none of the men, unless they could detect it by the feel, were 
aware of what design they were personally branded with, 
though each one could of course see the brands on the other 
men. The arms of each man were tightly encircled with 
bands of kiilchia made of opossum fur-string, which had been 
specially spun by men and women for the purpose. Every 
man wore his waist-girdle, and the forehead bands were 
painted up for the occasion. A characteristic ornament 
always worn on this occasion was a necklet, called wnpira, 
consisting of a single thick strand of well-greased and red- 
ochred fur-string, one end of \\hich hung down the middle of 
the back as far as the waist, and terminated in a little tuft of 
kangaroo-rat tail tips. Tufts of the latter were also suspended 
over either ear. 

It was five o'clock in the morning l^cforc the painting was 
complete. Then, ha\ing shouted across to the women that all 
was read}', the leader of the I'^ngwura went and broke through 
the middle of the Farm, and then through the line of boughs. 
Each of the ab-moara men then led his protege's round the 
Pnna, all singing out '' zv/in\u<hrr,'' as the)' ran round for the 
last time. When all had been round, the men grouped 
themselves at the base of the Kaiiaun,^ and then, in perfect 
silence, the whole party walked in single file through the break 

' The relative positions of the Parra and of the women's camp must he such 
that when grouped round the A'atiatia, and looking towards the women, the men 
fiice eastwards, the Parra lying l>etween them and the women. The direction in 
which the Parra runs is in some way associated with the fact that in the Alcheringa 
the various wantlering group of Achilpa travelled north and south ; the facing of 
the men towards the east has nothing to do with the rising of the sun. 


in the Parra and the line of bushes, each ab-moara leading 
his own men, all linked hand in hand. It was a most 
picturesque scene in the early morning light, for the sun had 
not yet risen, as the men filed down into the sandy bed of the 
river, on which they formed a long string reaching across from 
one bank to the other. On the opposite side they halted 
about fifty yards from the group of women and children who 
were standing behind the two fires, which were now giving off 
dense volumes of smoke from the green bushes which had 
been placed on the red-hot embers. The women, bending 
one leg while they slightly swayed the body, and beckoned 
the men forwards with their hands, kept calling " kutta, kuttUy 
kutta!' First of all one ab-vioara man with his Illpongivurra 
ran forwards, taking a semicircular course from the men 
towards the women, and then back again. After each of 
them had done this, then in turn they led their men, running, 
up to the fires, and on one or other of these the Illpongwurra 
knelt down, the Panunga and Bukhara men on the fire made 
by the Purula and Kumara women, and vice versa, while the 
women put their hands on the men's shoulders and pressed 
them dow^n. In this way the performance was rapidly gone 
through, not a word being spoken when once the ceremony 
had begun, each man simply kneeling down in the smoke for 
at most half a minute. In less than half an hour all was 
over ; the women remained for a short time behind their fires 
and then dispersed, and the men, in silence, marched back to 
their camp on the Engwura ground, where the newly-made 
Urliara grouped themselves around the Kaiiaua. With this 
the ceremonies on the Engwura ground came to a close ; the 
Kauaiia was taken down and dismantled, all traces of the blood 
being rubbed off; the Churinga were sorted out and returned 
to their respective owners. 

The older men now returned to their camps, but the newly- 
made Urliara men had still to remain out in the bush until 
the performance of a ceremony at which the ban of silence 
between them and their ab-moara men was removed. The 
Engwura ground was deserted, and for months afterwards it 
must not be visited by women and children, to whom it was 
strictly ckirinja, or forbidden. 


The fifth phase may be described very shorth'. When 
the old men return to their camps and the newly-made 
Urliara go out into the bush, one or more ordinary dancing 
festivals take place. A special one associated with this 
period is a woman's dance. Xt night the men and women 
all assemble in the main camp. A few, perhaps six or eight 
of the men, are painted with bands of ochre, and the dance 
opens with these men, one after the other, coming out of 
the darkness into the light of the camp fire behind which a 
group of men and women are seated, beating time with 
sticks and boomerangs on the ground and singing a corrob- 
boree song. As each man approaches the fire he looks about 
him as if in search of some one, and then, after a short time, 
sits down amongst the audience. After the men have 
separately gone through this short performance a number 
of young women, who have been waiting out of sight of the 
fire, come near. Each one is decorated with a double horse- 
shoe-shaped band of white pipe-clay which extends across 
the front of each thigh and the base of the abdomen. A 
flexible stick is held behind the neck and one end grasped 
by each hand. Standing in a group the women sway slightly 
from side to side, quivering in a most remarkable fashion, as 
they do so, the muscles of the thighs and of the base of the 
abdomen. The object of the decoration and movement is 
evident, and at this period of the ceremonies a general 
interchange, and also a lending of, women takes place, and 
visiting natives are provided with temporary wives, though 
on this occasion in the Arunta tribe the woman allotted 
to any man must be one to whom he is iinaiva, that is, 
who is lawfully eligible to him as a wife. This woman's 
dance, which is of the most monotonous description possible 
goes on night after night for perhaps two or three weeks, at 
the end of which time another dance is commenced. By the 
time that this is over, or perhaps earlier still, for there is no 
fixed time, the final ceremonies commence in connection with 
the newly-made Urliara. Each of them has to bring in an 
offering of food to his ab-inoara man. Under ordinary cir- 
cumstances such a food-offering is called chaiirilia, but this 
particular one is called ertwa-kirra, that is, man's meat. 


When the present has been made, the ab-inoara man either 
performs, or else requests some one else to perform, a sacred 
ceremony which belongs to himself These ceremonies are 
of the nature of those already described, and the description 
of one or two will suffice to illustrate the nature of them 
all. A Panunga man of the lizard totem brought in a wallaby 
as ertwa-kirra to his ab-vioara, who was a Purula man 
of the emu totem. It need hardly be said that the food 
brought in belongs neither to the totem of the giver nor 
to that of the recipient. The latter in this instance prepared 
a ceremony of the wild cat totem in a secluded spot amongst 
the ranges away from the Engwura ground. A remarkable 
feature in connection with this and other of these special 
ceremonies concerned with the offering of food was the 
sprinkling of the older men with blood drawn from the arms 
of the younger men, not necessarily from the younger man 
who was making the offering. Early in the morning of the 
day on which the ceremony was performed, one of the }-oung 
men had opened a vein in his arm and had allowed the blood 
to flow out in a thin stream over the bodies of four of the 
older men who were present, including the ab-vioara man 
to whom the food was being given. Some of the blood had 
been allowed to flow into their open mouths, the idea being 
to strengthen the older men at the expense of the younger 
ones, and it had trickled down and over their bodies in thin 
streams and had dried up. The ceremony itself was of the 
usual description, and was accompanied by the dancing round 
of the young men who came running into the narrow defile 
in which it was held, and where the decorated men were 
waiting for them. When it was over, the men all grouped 
themselves close together and began singing, while the elder 
ab-moara man took a bunch of feathers which had been 
used as part of the decoration and touched with it the 
mouths of all those present. By means of this action, which 
is called Aralkalilima, the ban of silence was broken. Some- 
times, as in this case, a part of the decoration of some 
individual was used ; at others, when one had been used 
in the ceremony, a Niirtunja was brushed against the mouths 
of the men present, and in many, but not all cases, not only 




the mouth of the man who was being released from the 
ban was touched, but also that of all the men who happened 
to be present. When this part was over, the man who 
was receiving the food sat down together with the older 
men, and then the young man, or perhaps two or three 
together who were making the presentation, went back to 




the spot at which the food had been deposited, and, bringing 
it in, placed it before the ab-moara man and then sat down 
close in front of him. After singing for a minute or two 
the old man took up the food, and holding it, or a frag- 
ment of it, in his hands, placed it against the mouth of the 
young man or men. In this way, after the lapse of some time. 
the ceremonies of the En<:jwura were broue^ht to a close. 


In another of these ceremonies of Aralkalilima, a wild cat 
Quabara, belonging to a place called Atnyraungwuramunia, 
was performed by two men, one an Apungerta of the 
witchetty grub totem, and the other his son, a Panunga of the 
Irriakura totem, the object being to release from the ban 
of silence two Purula men, who were ab-moara to the first- 
named man. For use in the ceremony a Niirttinja was made, 
and during the making only the nakrakia of the performers 
were present. The ceremony itself, with the performers 
squatting at the base of the Niwtiinja, was much as usual, 
the crowd who took part in the running round comprising 
all classes. One of the ab-moara men carried his ertiva-kirra 
offering in his hands as he ran round, the other left his 
some distance away. The performance came to an end by 
the ab-moara men suddenly squatting down behind the per- 
formers. All then stood up, and one of the Purula men 
offered his ertiva-kirra, having done \\'hich he and all the other 
Purula and Kumara men moved to one side, forming a group 
with the two ab-moara men in the centre. The old man 
now lifted out the Nurtunja, and all the men belonging to 
his moiety of the tribe stood in two lines with the Niirtunja 
held horizontally between them, every man supporting it 
with his hands and lifting it slowly up and down while they 
sang, and at the same time gradually approached the other 
group of men. The front rank of the latter now opened 
out, leaving the two ab-moara Purula men in front of the 
Nurtunja. Still singing, and with an occasional " ivah ! wa/i! " 
the faces of the two men, but of none of the others, were 
stroked with the Nurtunja, after which the latter was again 
replaced in the ground, and for some minutes they continued 
to sing of the Nurtunja and Kauaua of the Alcheringa. This 
ceremony is one of those which for some reason has special 
associations with one moiety of the tribe, and during its 
performance the separation of the two moieties was most 
strongly marked. 

The following ceremony is of interest in one or two respects. 
It was performed on the occasion of an offering of ertiva- 
kirra made by two men, one a Panunga and the other an 
Uknaria, who were ab-moara to a Kumara man, and com- 



prised two separate performances. The first of these was 
concerned with the Unchipera or small bat totem, and the 
performer personated a man carrying about the bod}' of a 
dead man which he intended to eat, and which was repre- 
sented by a semi-circular structure made of grass stalks 
bound round with fur-string, which is called Atnuta, and is 
supposed to be emblematic of the limp bod\-. The second 


part of the cercmon)- was concerned with the Elkintera or 
white bat totem, and one of the two performers also carried 
one of these Atnuta objects, representing a dead man, on his 
head. When the two performances were over, the three 
performers, one of whom was the Kumara man to whom the 
o.Tering was being made, stood up, and the ceremony of 
Aralkalilima was performed, the Atnuta being used to stroke 
the mouth of the ab-vioara men. This over, the performers 

c c 


sat round the ertwa-kirra, but the difficulty arose that the man 
to whom the offering was being made was Gaiiwiona of one 
of the ab-nioara men, and for a Gaininona to receive food from 
his Ikuntera (in this case a tribal father-in-law) is contrary to 
custom. To obviate this difficulty the Gaimnona man turned 
his back on the food while his Ikuntera came up, tore a small 
piece of meat off, and with it rubbed the Gannnonas mouth, 
and then thrust it into the latter, thus for the time being 
removing the tabu. 

A man is not supposed to come into the presence of his 
ab-inoara until such time as he has made an offering of 
ej'twa-kirra to the latter, and if it be inconvenient to the 
ab-nwara man to perform a Ouabara and go through the 
whole Aralkalilima ceremony, he performs a minor ceremon)^ 
called Anaintalilima which, though not releasing a man from 
the ban of silence, permits him to come into the presence of 
the ab-moara. In this case a messenger is sent to the 
ab-inoara asking him to come and receive ertiua-kirra. He 
goes to a certain spot — there is no particular place but it 
must be out of sight of the main camp so that the proceedings 
cannot be witnessed by women and children — and there he 
sits down and powders up some red ochre, which he places 
beside him on a shield. The man brings up the offering of 
meat (sometimes there may be more than one man), places it 
on the ab-inoara's lap, and then kneels down close in front. 
Not a word is spoken, but the ab-inoara gravely rubs him all 
over with red ochre. The ban of silence is not removed, but 
he may now go into the presence of his ab-inoara, by whom at 
some future time a sacred ceremony will be performed, and 
the ban removed in the usual way. This second ceremon}- 
will probably, though not of necessity, entail a second offering 
of ertwa-kirra and very often a hint is conveyed from the 
old ab-inoara that such an offering will facilitate matters. 



Tlie early, middle and later Alcheringa — The early Alcheringa — Transformation 
of the Inapertwa creatures into human beings by the Uugambikula — Tradition 
referring to the Ulpincrka of the plum tree totem — The two lizard men kill 
the Oriiiiiha at Simpson Gap — Marital relations not restricted by totem in 
the Alcheringa — The middle Alcheringa — The Ullakupera men and their 
stone knives — Introduction by them of circumcision by means of a stone knife 
— Endeavour of the Utiara men to secure stone knives — Wanderings of the 
Ullakupera from Atnaturka to Utiara — The Ullakupera transform Inapertwa 
into human beings and give them class names — An old Echidna man dis- 
approves of the use of stone knives — The men of the Elonka totem who had 
not been circumcised by the Ungaiiibikula are operated on and made into 
Arakiirta — The Echidna mutilates and kills the last man on whom the Ulla- 
kupera were about to operate — He is himself killed, and the spears which 
were thrown into his body are represented by the spines of the Echidna — In 
consequence of this there are no more Echidna men and women — The Ulla- 
kupera men march on, and another Echidna man murders one upon whon- 
they were about to operate, and is killed — The murdered man comes to life 
again — End of the Ullakupera wanderings — The wanderings of the Achilpa or 
wild cat people and the introduction by them of the ceremony of sub-incision 
— The first group of wild cat people start from the east side 'and travel north 
— The wild cat men feed on Hakea flower and drink their own blood — They 
join a party of plum tree men, die, and come to life again as Ulpnierka of the 
plum tree totem — The second group of wild cat people — Divides into two 
groups, one of which travels north by way of Imanda on the Hugh River, and 
then on beyond the Macdonnell Ranges to a spot at which they are all drowned 
in blood by a wild cat man — The third group travels to the west of the second 
group, crosses the Macdonnell Ranges, reaches the centre of the continent, 
and there the men die — The fourth party travels still further to the west, 
crosses the Macdonnell Ranges, and journeys on to the north until the Salt 
Water country is reached — The later Alcheringa — Restrictions with regard to 
marriage in the middle Alcheringa — Men and women of the same totem living 
together — The emu people establish the present class system — Outline of 
stages sujjposed to have been passed through in the development of the social 
organisation, &c. , according to tradition. 

We have hitherto spoken of the Alcheringa in general 
terms, using the word to denote the whole period during which 
the mythical ancestors of the present Arunta tribe existed. 
In reality the traditions of the tribe recognise four more 
or less distinct periods in the Alcheringa. During the first 

C C 2 


of these men and women were created ; in the second the rite 
of circumcision by means of a stone knife, in place of a 
fire-stick, was introduced ; in the third the rite of Ariltha 
or sub-incision was introduced, and in the fourth the present 
organisation and marriage system of the tribe were estabhshed. 
The second and third periods are, however, by no means sharply 
defined, and to a certain extent they are contemporaneous, or 
rather they overlap one another. 

We may speak of these periods as the early, the middle 
(comprising the second and third), and the later Alcheringa. 

The earliest tradition with which we are acquainted is 
as follows. In the early Alcheringa the country was covered 
with salt w^ater {Kwatc/ia alia). This was gradually with- 
drawn towards the north by the people of that country 
who always wanted to get it and to keep it for themselves.^ 
At last they succeeded in doing so, and the salt water has 
remained with them ever since. At this time there dwelt 
in the A/kira aldoria, that is the western sky, two beings of 
whom it is said that they were Unganibiknla, a word which 
means " out of nothing," or " self-existing." From their 
elevated dwelling-place they could see, far away to the east, a 
number of Inapcrtiva creatures,- that is rudimentary human 
beings or incomplete men, whom it was their mission to make 
into men and women. 

In those days there were no men and women, and the 
Liapcrtzva were of various shapes and dwelt in groups along 
by the shores of the salt water. They had no distinct 
limbs or organs of sight, hearing or smell, and did not 
eat food, and presented the appearance of human beings all 
doubled up into a rounded mass in which just the outline 
of the different parts of the body could be vaguely seen. 

Coming down from their home in the western sky, armed 
with their Lalira or great stone knives, the Ungambikiila took 

\ Though it is scarcely credible that there can be any tradition relating to a time 
so far past, yet it is a remarkable coincidence that this tradition reflects what 
geological evidence shows to have been the case, so far as the existence of a great 
inland sea is concerned. 

- In the Report of the Horn Expedition, vol. iv., p. 184, this word was written 
Inaperhva, and translated "Echidna," or "Native Porcupine." The spelling 
and explanation now given are the correct ones. 


hold of the Inapertiva, one after the other. First of all the arms 
were released, then the fingers were added by making four 
clefts at the end of each arm ; then legs and toes were added 
in the same way. The figure could now stand, and after this 
the nose was added and the nostrils bored with the fingers. 
A cut with the knife made the mouth, which was pulled open 
several times to make it flexible. A slit on each side 
separated the upper and lower eye-lids, hidden behind which 
the eyes were already present, another stroke or two com- 
pleted the body, and thus, out of the Inapertiva, men and 
women were formed. 

These Inapertiva creatures were in reality stages in the 
transformation of various animals and plants into human 
beings, and thus they were naturally, when made into human 
beings, intimately associated with the particular animal or 
plant, as the case may be, of which they were the transforma- 
tions — in other words, each individual of necessity belonged to 
a totem the name of which was of course that of the animial 
or plant of which he or she was a transformation. This 
tradition of the Ungambikula only refers to a certain number 
of totems, or rather to a certain number of local groups of 
individuals belonging to particular totems ; in the case of 
others such as, for example, the Udnirringita or witchetty 
grub totem, there is no tradition relating to the Inapertiva 
stage. The Ungambikula made into men Inapertiva who 
belonged to the following totems : — Akakia or plum tree, 
Inguitchika or grass seed, Echunpa or large lizard, 
Erliwatchera or small lizard, Atninpirichira or Alexandra 
parakeet, and Untania or small rat. In the case of all 
except the first they also performed the rite of lartiia or 
circumcision by means of a fire-stick. 

The same tradition relates that, after having performed 
their mission, the Ungambikula transformed themselves into 
little lizards called Ajnunga-quiniaquiiiia, a word derived 
from amunga a fly and quiniaquinia to snap up quickly. 
There is no reason given for this, and in no other tradition do 
we meet with either the Unganibikula or the special kind of 
lizard into which they changed. 

In the case of a group of plum tree men who lived at a 


spot called Quiurnpa,^ which is associated with many traditions 
and in the case also of certain of the Unguitchika (grass seed 
totem) men, the Viigavibiknla first of all made them into 
human beings but did not circumcise them, so that the}' 
were what the natives call Ulpinerka, — the term applied to 
boys before this rite has been performed upon them. The 
Ungauibikiila, so the tradition goes on to say, intended to 
return and complete the work, but they were annoyed by the 
behaviour of certain Onuic/ia, that is " devil-devil " men, who 
lived at a place called Atnuraquina, which is near to a gap 
in the Macdonnell Range now called Temple Bar. These 
evil beings killed and ate a lot of lizard men and women 
whom they had made out of Iiiapertiva, so they did not 
return, and therefore the plum tree people of Quiurnpa, and 
one or two other groups of men and women, remained in the 
state of Ulpmerka or uninitiated. The same Oruncha ate 
a number of Alexandra parakeet, grass seed and small 
rat people. Of the lizard men only two survived the 
slaughter. They were brothers (how they came to be so the 
tradition does not say) and the younger of the two, together 
with his wife, was away down south when the slaughter took 
place. Upon his return he at once saw the tracks of the 
Oniiic/ia, and being frightened he placed his wife, who 
\\as also a lizard, in the centre of his Ilpilla, which is 
the large bundle of eagle-hawk feathers worn in the hair- 
girdle in the middle of the back, and thus concealed her 
from view. Then he searched for his Okilia or elder brother, 
and at length found his head, to which he spoke, with the 
result that the man at once came to life and said, " the 
OriuicJia killed us but the}- threw awa\' my head ; they will 
come again, take care of yourself" 

Then he pointed to the track which the)' had made, and 
the two men, arming themselves with strong Urmupira, 
that is spears of hea\y wood such as mulga, all made 
in one piece and only used for fighting at close quarters, 
went to opposite sides of a narrow gorge which is now 
known as the Simpson Gap, and is at the present day an 
important local centre of the lizard totem. The natives 

1 The locality of ihc various jilaces named is indicated on the maps. 


point out special stones which mark the spot where the two 
men stood. 

When the OnincJia made their appearance, the two brothers 
rushed down upon them, and with their good Unimpira killed 
them all. They fell in a great heap just at the entrance to 
the gorge, and to the present da}^ a great pile of jagged 
boulders marks the exact spot. After having thus destroyed 
their enemies, the elder of the two brothers stayed at the 

1 ... y,. 

.>.,_i... ... .V .,;..,... WHICH AROSE TCI ;.:.\..:., .. i;, \ 


gorge, and there finall)- died, though his spirit remained in 
the Churinga, which he, like every other Alcheringa individual, 
carried about with him ; the younger brother travelled away 
to a place a long way to the south called Arumpira not far 
from Erldunda, where he died, and so, by leaving his spirit 
behind in his Churinga, together with those associated with 
other Churinga which he carried, formed there a local 
Echunpa or lizard totem centre. 

The above tradition is of considerable interest ; it is in the 


first place evidently a crude attempt to describe the origin of 
human beings out of non-human creatures who were of 
various forms ; some of them were representatives of animals, 
others of plants, but in all cases they are to be regarded as 
intermediate stages in the transition of an animal or plant 
ancestor into a human individual who bore its name as that of 
his or her totem. It has already been said that the tradition 
only refers to certain totems ; we shall see subsequently that 
in the middle Alcheringa the making of men out of Iiiapertzva 
was continued by individuals of the Ullakupera or little hawk 
totem. The reference in the tradition to the Ulpuicrka men 
of the Akakia (plum tree), and Ingwitchika (grass seed) 
totems is of importance, as it serves to throw light upon what 
had been to us for some time a matter of considerable 
difficulty, and one for which no explanation had been forth- 
coming. We were acquainted with numerous ceremonies 
concerned with a group of individuals who were always 
spoken of as the Ulpmerka of a place called Ouiurnpa, and 
we were also acquainted with ceremonies concerned with 
certain so-called Arakuvta men. In each case the men were 
groups of individuals who belonged to special totems. One 
man, for example, would be an Akakia or plum tree man, 
while another would be an Ulpmerka of the Akakia totem. 
In just the same way one man would be an Elonka (a 
Marsdenia fruit) man, and another would be an Arakiirta of 
the Elonka totem. In the above tradition and in those con- 
cerned with the middle Alcheringa period, we can see how 
this is accounted for by the natives. The Ulpmerka were 
certain of the plum tree men who were not circumcised by the 
Ungambikula, and the Arakiirta were in the same state, but 
were subsequently operated upon by the Ullakupera and 
were thus changed from Ulpmerka into Arakiirta. 

Attention must also be drawn to the striking fact that there 
is no reference whatever to any system of organisation apart 
from the totem ic system, and further that this is not described 
as regulating marriage. The only reference to the latter 
which occurs is in the case of the younger of the two lizard 
brothers, who carried his wife in the bunch of eagle-hawk 
feathers, and it is expressly said of her that she was a 


lizard woman, that is, she belonged to the same totem as 
that to which he himself did. In fact, during the Alcheringa 
period concerning which we have ver}- numerous and full 
traditions, some of which will be dealt with subsequenth', it 
will be clearly seen that we are dealing with a time in which 
marital relations were not restricted b\- totem. We have 
definite indications of the existence of such relations between 
men and women of the same totems. We have been con- 
stantly on the watch for any tradition which would deal with 

i-ii; 92.- 


the regulation of the marital relationship in times past, but 
though, as will be seen shortly, there are clear indications of a 
time when the restrictions which now obtain were adopted, 
there is no indication whatever of a time when a man of any 
particular totem was obliged to marry a woman of another 
one. Such indications as there appear on the contrary 
rather point towards the usual existence of marital relations 
between men and women of the same totem. There are, 
however, one or two traditions which deal with the relationship 


of men and women of different totems, and these will be 
discussed later ; meanwhile it may be said that in the matter 
of totems and the restriction by these of marital relationship, 
a sharp line of separation may be drawn between the northern 
central tribes as exemplified by the Arunta, and the southern 
central tribes as exemplified b)- the Urabunna. 

We ma\" now pass on to deal with the middle Alcheringa 
period. Tradition relates that a great Oknirabata ^ of the 
Ullakupera or little hawk totem arose at a place called 
Atnaturka by the side of a stream now called Love's Creek. 
He and the men of his group were remarkable for the posses- 
sion of very fine stone knives, called Lalira, with which they 
performed the operation of Lartna or circumcision. Amongst 
the men of all other totems up to that time stone knives 
were not used for this purpose, and the operation was always 
performed with a fire-stick."- 

One of the Ullakupera men, who was a Purula named 
Ulpmurintha, flew from Atnaturka to Utiara, a place about 
ten miles north of Alice Springs, where at an earlier time the 
Uingambikiila had made into Ulpmerka certain Inapertiva 
creatures of the Untaina or small rat totem. Along with 
these people there dwelt two Ullakupera men, one a Kumara 
named Irtaquirinia and the other a Purula named Yirapur- 
tarinia, a Kumara man, both of whom are at the present time 
represented by living men, who are in fact simply regarded as 
their reincarnations. 

Previous to the arrixal of Ulpmarintha the two Ullakupera 
men had prepared a large Apulia, that is a special ground on 
which the rite of circumcision is performed, and on this they 
intended to operate on the Ulpmerka with the usual fire-stick. 
When, however, Ulpmurintha appeared upon the scene, the 
two men went to him and said, " How must we cut these 
Ulpmerka men ? " and he replied, " You must cut them with 
LaliraT The}' replied sorrowfulh", " We have no Lalira but we 

' This term is applied lo a man who is especially learned in all matters apper- 
taining to tribal customs and traditions ; the term is never applied except to old 
men, and is regarded as a very high distinction. 

- In the southern Arunta tradition ascribes the introduction of a stone knife for 
this purpose to an old woman of the Unchichera or frog totem. 


Mill cut them with Ura-ilyabara" (that is a fire-stick). The old 
man said, " No, do not do that, follow me to Atnaturka and I 
will give you some LaliraT Then he flew back quickly to 
Atnaturka and told two old men of his group what he had 
seen and said. One of these old men was a Kumara named 
Intumpulla, and the other was a Bukhara named Ungipur- 
turinia, and these two went and hid away the good Lalira, 
leaving only the poor ones in sight. Shortly afterwards the 
two Ullakupera men flew across the country to Atnaturka, 
and there the}' were given some Lalira swathed in bark. 
After receiving these the}', without examining them, at once 
started back on their return journey, ver}' much pleased with 
their good fortune in securing the knives. Upon arriving at 
Utiara they opened their parcels and found, ver}- much to their 
annoyance, that the stone knives were very rough, and quite 
unlike those described to them by the old men. i\fter this 
they paid several visits to Atnaturka with the object of 
securing some good Lalira, but were alwa}s treated in] the 
same wa}', and being very desirous of securing them in some 
way or another the}' finally invited the old Ullakupera men to 
again visit Utiara, where a great number of Ulpmerka were 
ready to be operated upon. Accordingh- a part}- of Ullakupera 
led b}' the two old men alread}' named started from Atnaturka 
taking with them some women and carr}'ing some good 
Lalira. The}' made their first camp at a place called Urtiacha, 
where the two streams now called Love's Creek and Todd 
River unite. They had no Niirtunja with' them nor an}- 
bird's down, but only Equina, or white pipe-clay, and Apirka, 
or powdered charcoal, with which to decorate themselves. 
Here they found an Apulia in readiness, at which were 
assembled a number of men, some of whom belonged to the 
Ertwaitcha or bell bird totem, and others to other totems. 
The Ullakupera men here performed the operation upon some 
of the \-oung men, and afterwards upon a number of the local 
men who considered the Lalira to be a great improvement 
upon the fire-stick. 

Close b\- the Apulia ground there were a large number of 
Inapertzca creatures of the same totem as the local men who 
had been operated upon. These the Ullakupera, w ith their 


stone knives, made into men and women, and at the same 
time conferred upon them the class names which they ever 
afterwards bore. It was these Ullakupera men who for the 
first time conferred upon the Arunta people the names of 
Panunga, Bukhara, Purula, and Kumara. 

The Ullakupera were very quick in performing the 
operation of circumcision, and an Inarlinga (Echidna or 
" Porcupine ") man who dwelt close by \vas very angry when 
he arrived and found that it was all over. He very strongly 
disapproved of the introduction of the stone knives. 

Where the Apulia ground had been made a fine clay-pan 
— that is a shallow depression capable of holding water for 
some time after a rainfall — was formed to mark the spot, and 
here several of the Ullakupera men went into the ground with 
their Churinga, from the spirits associated with which men and 
women, some of whom are now living, have sprung. 

Leaving this camp the party travelled a little north of a 
spot called Wurungatha, followed by the Inarlinga man. 
Here again they operated upon some more men ; the Inar- 
linga man came up too late, and was angr}^ as before, and 
another clay-pan arose to mark the spot. The Inarlinga man 
did not follow them any further. Travelling on the party 
came to a spot called Iturkwarinia, where they found a number 
of men of the Arwatcha totem (little rat), but they did not 
operate upon these people, because there was no Apulia in 
readiness, but they transformed a number of Inapertwa into 
Arwatcha men and women. At this place one Purula woman 
and a Kumara man were left behind, the Lalira which the 
latter carried being transformed into a Churinga when he went 
into the ground and died. Then they went on to the east of 
what is now Mount Undoolya, where they came across a 
number of Inapertwa of the Alchantwa (a seed) totem, who 
were transformed into human beings, and to the present day 
a fine group of gum trees marks the spot where they performed 
the operation. Thence, crossing the range, they came to 
Urwampina, and here they found that the Arwatcha (little rat) 
people had prepared an Apulia^ and therefore they performed 
Lartna upon them, and also operated upon Inapertzva 
creatures. Here also one Purula man remained behind and 


went into the ground. He has since undergone reincarnation 
in the form of a man who was the father of a woman now living 
at Ahce Springs. 

Travelling on they came to a place called Bukhara, because 
at the suggestion of the old Bukhara man, the party divided, 
the one half, that is the Panunga and Bukhara, going to one 
side, while the other half, that is the Purula and Kumara, went 
to the other side. Turning their faces towards the east the}- 
looked back upon the course which the}- had come, and as soon 
as they had done this two hills arose to mark the spots on which 
the}- had stood. Then the}- again mingled together and some 
Jiiapcrtwa of the Irritcha (eagle hawk^ totem were operated 
upon, and others also who belonged to the Untaina (small rat) 
totem. These newly-made beings were divided into two 
groups and made to stand apart just as the other men had 
done before. Then the}- marched on to a place called Ilarcha- 
inquila, on the present Jesse Creek, to the north of Undoolya, 
where the}- found, and operated on, some more Inapcrtwa 
of the eagle-hawk totem ; at Pitcharnia the}- found and 
operated upon some more, and at Chirchungina the}- met 
with OnincJia Inapertzva, and at Chara there were some be- 
longing to the Arthwarta (a small hawk) totem ; on all of 
these they operated. 

At Chara they were met b}- two men, who came from 
Utiara, and said, " We have brought back }-our stone knives 
which you gave us, the}- are of no use, wh}- did }-ou not give 
us good ones ? " The old men said, after the}- had looked at 
the Lalira, " Yes, these are no good, }-ou may take some 
others." They accordingly took some, and sa}-ing, " Come 
quickly to our Apulia" at once returned to Utiara. Some 
curious looking stones, now regarded as sacred, arose to mark 
the spot were the Lalira were spread out. At Kartathura 
some Inapertzva of the Erlia (emu) totem were operated upon, 
and then, without camping, the party moved on to Thungu- 
mina, which lies some seven or eight miles to the north of 
Alice Springs, where again more Inapertzva of the emu totem 
were operated upon. At Thungamina they deposited some 
inferior Lalira, which were, however, afterwards picked up by 
the local people, and being by them regarded as sacred were 
placed in the store-house or Ertnatidunga at Utiara. Then the 


party travelled on to Thungarunga, and operated there upon 
Iiiapertiva creatures of the Marsdenia fruit and rat totems, and, 
having done so, cleaned up and sharpened their Lalira with 
ashes and walked on to Utiara, where they stood waiting to 
hear the Lartna song which would show them that the 
Apulia was ready. As soon as the singing was heard they 
went on to the Aptilla ground, a number of stones stand- 
ing up on end now marking the spot where they stood and 

Standing to one side of the Apulia the}' watched while 
the two local men for the first time operated with stone 
knives. They were not, as yet, expert in the use of the 
knives, and after two or three operations the old Ullakupera 
man named Intumpulla said, " Stand aside, I will do the 
cutting ; " and so he cut all the Ulpnierka who had previously 
been transformed out of Inapertzva by the Ungaiiilnkula. 
He told them to go away altogether to the Utiara Range 
where they went into the ground and so formed there an 
Oknanikilla which is called that of the Arakurta of the Elonka 
totem, and which is the only one of this nature in the 

After sending the Arakurta away the old man still went 
on cutting, and when about to operate on the last man, who 
was markiluiiaiva, that is a married man, an old man of 
the Inarlinga (Echidna) totem rushed on to Xk^o. Apulia ground 
and said, " I must cut this man with my Lalira^,' and drawing 
a knife from a socket in his skull just behind his ear, grasped 
the man's penis and scrotum, and with one savage stroke 
of his knife cut them off, and the man fell down dead. 
The old Echidna man at once ran away, but was followed 
b\' the Ullakupera and other men, who killed him, ridd- 
ling his body with spears. Since then no Echidna men 
or women have ever sprung up in the countr}% but only 
animals covered with spines, which represent the spears 
with which the Alcheringa Echidna man was killed. 
Before this happened there were Echidna animals, but they 
had no spines, and this is how the Inarlinga or Echidna came 
to be covered with spines. \\y thus killing the man on the 
sacred Apulia ground the Inarlinga "spoilt" himself, and all 
the totem kindred, and so they cannot rise again except in 


the form of little animals covered with spines which are 
simply Alcheringa spears. 

When the wives of the murdered man missed him they 
went to the Apulia ground and there they found him dead, 
and, noticing his mutilated state, they searched for many days 
for the missing organs. They dug up the Apulia ground 
without success, and were much troubled until one day the 
younger of the two women, who was Quitia or younger sister 
of the other, found the missing organs under the bank on one 
side of the Apulia ; placing them in her alpara or pitch!, she 
took them to the body and tried to join them on again, but 
they would not remain in position, and so she called her elder 
sister and both tried many times without any success, until 
finally, placing the organs on the ground, they laid the body 
on the top of them, face downwards, so that they might rest 
in the proper position. Then, feeling very mournful, the two 
women sat down, one on each side of the dead man, and all 
three then turned into the stones which still exist to mark the 
spot. A little distance away is another stone which represents 
the mother of the two women, who came to look for her 
daughters and would not go away without them. Being 
Mura to the dead man she could not come close up to him 
and so sat down a little distance away. 

At this spot the Ullakupera men left some women, thus 
forming another Oknanikilla, and of these women, one a 
Purula, called Chitta, has at the present day a living repre- 

From Utiara the party flew up into the sky, and travelling 
northwards descended again to earth at Ilkania, a spot 
close to what is now known as the Burt Plain, where they 
found bandicoot, carpet snake and one old Echidna man 
assembled at an Apulia ground. Here they performed 
Lartna with their stone knives, and once more, just as they 
were about to cut the last man who was an Okranina or snake 
man, the old Echidna man rushed up, and, before they could 
stop him, mutilated the man with a stone knife which he 
carried, as before, in a socket behind his ear. The Echidna 
was at once speared, but ran a short distance from the Apulia 
while the spears were pouring in upon him, until, after having 


run round in a circle, he fell down dead. A circular rock hole 
appeared to mark the spot. All the men who had been 
operated upon ran away, followed by their women ; the wives 
of the murdered man remained behind and called to him many 
times, but received no reply, and as it was night-time the}' 
could not see him, and so they sat down and waited anxiously 
for the daylight. Early in the morning the}' went to the 
Apulia ground, and there they found him dead and mutilated. 
For some time they mourned over him, and then they started 
to search for the missing parts, which, after a time, the}' found 
close to the Apulia. Then they lifted the body into a sitting 
position, placing it in a large pitchi, and replaced in their 
position the parts which had been cut off, and then after 
much crying, being hungry, they went away in search of 
food. Shortly after their departure the man awoke as if 
from a dream, perfectly sound, but of course an Ulpinerka, for 
the old Ullakupera man had not operated upon him. He at 
once found the women's tracks and followed them to where the}' 
were eating Okranina, or snake, which was their totem. The}- 
were rejoiced to see him, and then all of them went into the 
earth, carrying their Churinga with them, and three stones 
arose to mark the spot where they went in. 

After killing the Echidna man and leaving behind one 
little hawk woman, who has no living representative, the party 
once more took wing and travelled on to Urangipa, where 
they found a lot of Kakwa men assembled at an Ap2tlla 
ground. Here the old Intumpulla insisted upon performing 
Lartna. He also transformed a number of Inapertiva into 
human beings, and, so says tradition, being enamoured of the 
Kakwa women he decided to stay at Urangipa, and accordingly 
stayed there altogether, together with another Kumara man 
named Unchinia. The rest of the party went on under the 
leadership of the Bukhara man. For some distance the}' 
took wing and then came down to earth at the Mirra or 
camp of the Ullakupera, where they found a Yarumpa or 
honey-ant woman of the Panunga class, who had a Nurtiinja 
which she did not wish the strangers to see. She did her 
best to drive them awa}^, using abusive language, which very 
much annoyed the old Ullakupera man, who killed her with a 


spear, but did not interfere with her Nnrtunja, which is now 
represented by a large gum tree. At this spot a Panunga 
man was left behind, and hence the}- travelled on to Urumbia, 
which lies to the north of the place which was named Anna's 
Reservoir by Stuart, the earl}- explorer, during his journe}- 
across the continent. This lies within the countr}- of the 
Ilpirra tribe, and the part}- changed its language to that of 
the Ilpirra. Here also they met with a number of extra- 
ordinar}- - looking Inapertiva creatures of the honey-ant 
totem, who were engaged in performing an Engwura 
ceremon}-. These they made into men and women, and then, 
leaving a Panunga woman behind, the}' went away, fl}'ing off 
towards the west to a place called Ungapirta, where they 
found Inapertzva of the Ullakupera totem, whom they 
transformed into human beings ; and then the}- all went into 
the ground, where the Churinga with their associated spirits 
ever after remained, so that at this place there is a large and 
important Okiianikilla or local centre of the Ullakupera 

It will be seen that there are two points of importance so far 
as these Ullakupera men and the work which they carried out 
is concerned. In the first place the}' introduced the use of a 
stone knife in place of the fire-stick ^ at the ceremon}- of 
circumcision. They were apparentl}- not the onl}- men who 
possessed stone knives, as the Echidna men are distinctl}- 
stated to have had them, and in the southern part of the tribe 
a woman of the frog totem is said to have possessed one. 
Probabl}- we have in this tradition an indication of a time 
when a more primitive method of cutting was retained in con- 
nection with a sacred ceremon}- than was used in the case of the 
ordinary operations of life."' In the southern Arunta tradition 

' We have translated the word iira-ilyabara by the usual term fire-stick. In 
reality ilyabara means a piece of bark. 

' It is not perhaps without interest to note that even in savage tribes, such as those 
of Central Australia, we meet with evidence of the remarkable way in which 
ancient customs are preserved in connection with "sacred"' rites. The retention 
of the fire-stick at circumcision after the use of stone implements was evidently 
known, finds its parallel in the retention of stone implements for the same operation 
after the use of iron was well known. Cf. Tylor, Early History of Mankind 
3rd Edit., 1878, p. 217. 

D D 


says that one day the men were, as usual, circumcising a boy 
with a fire-stick when an old woman rushed up and, telling 
the men that they were killing all the boys because they were 
using a fire-stick, showed them how to use a sharp stone, and 
ever afterwards the fire-stick was discarded. 

The second point of importance is the introduction of the 
class names, but it must be also noticed that there is no men- 
tion of any restrictions with regard to marriage connected 
with them, nor is any reason assigned for their introduction. 
In fact, as yet, we have no indication of any restrictions on 
marriage so far as either totems or classes are concerned, such 
restrictions we shall meet with in traditions referring to a later 
period in the history of the tribe. It will also be seen that 
there is no attempt to offer any explanation of the origin of 
the ceremony of circumcision, and in connection with this 
subject it may be noticed that, so far as the Arunta tribe is 
concerned, circumcision is represented as being practised 
upon men who are already provided with wives, and this, 
which is the earliest tradition dealing with the subject, gives 
no indication whatever of the reason for the fact that circum- 
cision is, at the present day, one of the most important cere- 
monies which must be passed through before any youth is 
allowed to have a wife. 

Concerned with the middle Alcheringa people, but coming 
at a later date than the Ullakupera men, who introduced the 
use of the stone knife at Lartua, we meet with traditions con- 
cerning certain early Achilpa, or wild cat men, who in their 
turn introduced the ceremony oi Ariltha, or sub-incision. 

Amongst the Achilpa there are four distinct groups, with 
regard to the doings of whom the natives have traditions as 

The first group started from a place called Okira, somewhere 
to the east of Wilyunpa, which itself lies on the Finke river, 
out to the east of the present telegraph station at Charlotte 
Waters. They carried with them a sacred pole called a Kaiiaua, 
which they erected at various stopping places. To this special 
ceremonial object, reference is made in the account of the 
Engwura ceremony, as it is always, and exclusively, used in 
connection with this. When during the course of their 


marchings they performed the rite of Arilthaox sub-incision 
they ahvays erected a special Xurtioija. 

Leaving Okira the men came to Therierita, where they 
performed Arilt/ia, made Engwura, and left some members of 
the part)' behind them. Thence they went on to Atymikoala, 
a few miles to the east of Love's Creek, and there they 
performed quabara laidattlia, that is a sacred ceremony con- 
cerned with one or other of the totems in connection with 
the decoration for which uiuiattha or bird's down is used. 
Each of the sacred ceremonies, as performed at the present 
day, is supposed to be the exact counterpart of one of these 
ceremonies of the Alcheringa. The Quabara Achilpa of Theri- 
erita, as a particular ceremony is now called, is, for example, 
the special ceremony which was performed on the occasion 
when the wild cat men visited Therierita, and the ceremony 
was the special property of one member of the part}'. It was 
in this way — by their performance at certain particular spots — 
that the ceremonies became, each one of them, associated 
with these spots. 

From this resting place they marched on to Achilp-ilthunka, 
which means where the Achilpa was cut to pieces, and is close 
to the present Arltunga out in the eastern Macdonnell Ranges. 
Here they met a wild cat man who had come down from 
the salt water country away to the north. He is recorded as 
having been abnormally developed, and as having ravished and 
killed women all along his route. He was also atnarbita or 
foul-smelling, and intended going on to Therierita, but the 
Achilpa being enraged with him on account of his conduct, 
killed him and mutilated him, and a large stone arose to mark 
the place where they buried him. Leaving this spot they 
marched on, driving enormous numbers of mosquitoes on in 
front of them. Tradition also says that they lived on 
Unjiamba, or Hakea flower, and that when they were thirsty 
they drank their own blood, as the natives often do at the 
present day. As they journeyed on they passed Unchipera- 
wartna, but did not see two women of the opossum totem 
who lived there, and then they reached a place now called 
Aurapuncha. Before, however, they came quite close up, they 
smelt Akakia or plum tree men, and as soon as they came 

IJ D 2 


into the bed of the creek they saw a number of men and boys 
eating plums. With them the}- sta\-ed for some time, and after 
performing quabarn uudattha the}' went into the ground ; in 
other words the}' died, and after a time arose again, no longer 
as Achilpa men, but changed into Ulpmerka or uninitiated 
men of the Akakia or plum tree totem. Taking along with 
them the local Llpmcrka of the Akakia totem, the newl}' 
arisen Ulpinerka went on to a place called Erlua, somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of the Strangwa}' Range, and leaving at 
various spots a few members of their part}' behind them, so as 
to form Ok)ianikilla, the}* came at last to Arwura-puncha, 
where the}' met a large number of Ulpinerka men, who had 
come up from Ouiurnpa under the leadership of a celebrated 
man called Kukaitcha, and were carr}-ing with them a large 
Nui'tunja. The two parties joined forces, and u hen the}^ had 
performed quabara uudattha the}" left two men behind and 
proceeded to Urangunja, where the}' found two women of 
the Urpura totem (magpie) who had a Nurtunja and owned 
certain ceremonies which the}' showed to the men. These 
women had their arms, heads and necks covered with fur- 
string and the tail-tips of the rabbit-kangaroo, called Alpita, 
which at the present da}' are alwa}'s worn as a decoration b}- 
women at special ceremonies. The Ulpnierka camped here 
for some time performing sacred ceremonies, which, however, 
the women were not allowed to see. Leaving here they passed 
on to Ilchartwa-nynga, where the}- made a great Alt/ierta — 
that is, an ordinar}' so-called corrobboree which has no sacred 
nature and may be seen and taken part in by women and the 
uninitiated — and here a large number of stones standing up 
on end arose and still exist to mark the spot where the 
Ulpinerka danced. They are now called Ulpinerka atuimma, 
that is the standing Ulpinerka. After this they journe}'ed on 
to Alawalla, which lies to the east of Central Mount Stuart, 
which, as its name implies, is situated in the ver}' centre of the 
continent, and there they made Quabara. As they did so a 
curious phenomenon was witnessed — the Akakia trees shed 
their plums so thickly that it was just as if it were raining 
plums ; the fruit ran along the ground like a flood, and the 
Ulpinerka would have been drowned in them if they had not 


<quickly gone into the ground and so made their escape. They 
emerged at IncharHnga on the Stirling Creek, where they 
performed ceremonies, and from here Kukaitcha led them 
right away north to the country of the salt water. 

The second group of Achilpa or wild cat people came from 
the country of the Luritcha tribe, far away to the south-west 
of the present Arunta land, and camped at a place called 
Yungurra to the west of Henbury on the Finke river. The 
party was led by two Oknirabata, or wise old men, who on 
account of the abnormal development of their organs were 
cal led A tninumi-la-tni ripa. 

At Yungurra the part}- divided into two groups, one of the 
old men going with each of them. Of these two parties one 
will now be spoken of as the second and the other as the 
third group of the Achilpa. 

The second group crossed the Finke river about twelve 
miles south of Henbury, and travelled on to Imanda on the 
Hugh river, where they changed their language to the Arunta 
tongue. Like the first party they carried a sacred pole or 
Kaiiaua. On arriving at Imanda the}' found a large number 
•of Unchichera 'frog;, Elkintera fwhite bat), and Unchipera 
(little bat) men who were engaged in performing an Engwura 
ceremon}- in which the new comers joined, the young men 
amongst the Achilpa being sent out dail}' into the bush 
along with those of the other totemic groups. The head of 
the Unchichera totem at this spot was also Atnininia-la- 
Jniripa, and his name was Kartuputapa. The Achilpa 
remained for a long time at a spot close to Imanda, where 
they left some men behind them and so established an 
important Oktianikilla. When the}' left Imanda they were 
accomj^anied b}' Kartuputapa, and camped first at a big clay 
pan called Itnuna-twuna in the James Range, where they 
performed ceremonies and saw a Purula woman of the frog 
totem whose name was Umbalcha. She possessed a Xiirtunja 
and sacred ceremonies which she showed to the Achilpa. 
This woman had arisen in this spot. Then they tra\elled to 
Ooraminna, where they made an Engwura and discovered 
a number of men who were suffering from liykincha — a 
<lisease common amongst the natives and concerning which 


there are certain traditions to which reference will be made 
sLibsequenth". The}' also saw a number of Unjiamba (Hakea 
flower ; men and women who had originated there, and also the 
two Unjiamba women who had come from Engwurnanunga. 
After performing AriltJia upon the Unjiamba men and also 
upon some of their own }-oung men, the\- performed the 
initiation ceremony called Atna ariltha-kunta upon the two 
women just referred to. At Ooraminna the}' left three men 
and here also Kartuputapa, the frog man, left the party 
and went back to his own countr)' at Imanda. The wild 
cat men journe\'ed on to Urthipata, a swamp on the Emily 
plain, journeying, as they went northwards, close b\-, but not 
actual!}- along, the tracks of the Unjiamba women who had 
tra\elled in the opposite direction. Here the\- made Engwura 
and found a man and woman both of whom belonged to the 
Unjiamba totem ; the man was a Purula and the woman a 
Kumara. Each of them possessed a Nnrtnnja and qiiabara 
luidattha, and when the Achilpa men attempted to interfere 
with the woman they could not do so because of her quabara. 
Leaving here the}' were seen b}- a Purula man of the 
witchett}- grub totem ^ who had originated in the localit}-, 
but as he hid himself the Achilpa did not see him. 

The next camping place was at a small hill on the I'^mil}' 
Plains on the top of \\hich a stone arose to mark the spot ; 
here they made Ainpurta)ntvra'} that is a long series of 
ceremonies concerned with the Achilpa totem, and then they 
went on to Okirra-kulitha, a depression in the Macdonnell 
Range a little to the east of the Emil}- gap. The}' camped 
right on the top of the range, performed quabara undattJia, 
and also the rite o{ Ariltha on some of their }'oung men, and 
then went on eastwards for five or six miles to a hill called 
Irpai-chinga near to the Emil}' Creek and performed some 
more ceremonies. Here the}- noticed plentv of witchetty 
grubs, feeding on grass, but the}' did not interfere with them 

1 This is one of the very few cases in wliich the Alcheringa witchetty grubs were 
not Panunga or Buithara. 

^ Various totems have a name similar to this which is applied to a long series of 
ceremonies concerned with that special totem. In the owl totem, for example, i 
is Latinipa. 


and went on to Achilpa-interninja. a hill about two miles 
away from the Emily soakage. Owing to the breaking 
of the string with which a bundle was tied together, 
they lost a small Churinga, from which sprung afterwards a 
Purula man named Ultanchika, whose descendant now lives at 
Alice Springs ; then they went on to Okilla-la-tunga, a plain 
amongst the ranges, and there found a Purula woman of the 
Unjiamba totem whose name also was Unjiamba, and who 
possessed a Niirtnnja and quabara undattha, which she 
showed to the Achilpa men, who danced round her Nnrtunja 
and then showed her their quabara undattJia. Then the\- 
went on to Ulir-ulira, which means the place where blood 
flowed like a creek, and is a water-pool on the Todd Creek. 
The young men opened veins in their arms and gave draughts 
of blood to the old men. who were ver}- tired. Ever 
afterwards the water at this spot was tinted with a reddish 
colour ; indeed it is so at the present day. After again making 
Avipurtamirra the\' journe\"ed on and came to a place called 
Ertua, where they saw two women of the Ertua wild turkey; 
totem, one a Purula named Ulknatawa, who had a little boy 
child, and the other a Kumara. An old Kumara man of the 
same totem lived with these women, but was out hunting at 
the time. His name was Arungurpa, and he was the husband 
of the Purula woman. The women had neither Nnrtunja nor 
quabara undatt/ia. Passing on, the Achilpa camped at 
Arapera, a big stone hill to the east of Bond Springs, where 
they stopped for some time making Engwura and performing 
AriltJia. Here they found a Purula woman of the Achilpa 
totem whose name was Ariltha-mariltha, and who has a 
descendant now living. She had a large Nnrtunja w hich was 
erected and stood so high that it w as seen by the Achilpa 
from a long wa\- off The woman showed her quabara 
undattha, and the\- afterwards performed Atna ariltha-kujna 
upon her, and then all of them had intercourse with her. At 
this spot the\' left one man, a Kumara named Achilpa, whose 
descendant is now alive. Leaving Arapera the}' reached 
Ilchinga and, being tired, camped for a few hours, the old 
men painting the newly-made Urliara with long parallel lines 
from the feet to the head. Here the\- found a Bukhara 


woman of the Unjiamba totem named Cho-urka, who had 
a Ntirtuiija and qiiabara iiiidatt/ia, and whose Naiija was a 
large stone which can still be seen. With her they did not 
interfere, but after a short rest marched on to a place called 
Ungwurna-la-warika, which means " where the bone was 
.struck," because here one of the men while swinging a 
Churinga accidentally struck another man on the shin with it. 
At this spot they found two Bukhara women of the Unjiamba 
totem, one named Choarka-wuka, and the other Abmoara, who 
possessed N^itrlimjas B.r\d qiiabara iindattha, which they showed 
to the Achilpa. One Purula man was left behind here. 
Walking on they came to Ilchi-lira, where they ra^A.^^ quabara 
and found two men of the Unjiamba totem, one a Bukhara 
named W^ultaminna, and the other a Kumara named 
Ungarulinga, the last descendant of whom has recently died. 
There was here another Unjiamba man whom they did not 
see. They also saw one Unjiamba woman, a Bukhara. All 
these people had Nnrtiiiijas and sacred ceremonies, and had 
originated on the spot. The Achilpa left behind them one 
Burula man. 

The next stopping place was Ituka-intura, a hill at the 
head of the Harry Creek, where they found a large number of 
Achilpa men and women with whom they mixed. These 
people were of all classes and had sprung up on the spot. 
After having performed Ariltha upon a great number of men 
and made Engwura they left the local Achilpa behind and 
marched on to Arara. Here they remained for a long time 
and made Engwura ; when doing this the Kaiiaiia, or sacred 
pole, was always erected and made to lean in the direction in 
which they intended to travel. Starting on their travels once 
more they came near to a spot on the Harry Creek where they 
first smelt, and then saw, some Achilpa men who were suffering 
from Erkindia. These men had no women, but close to them 
lived two Unjiamba women, both of whom were Panunga. 
The latter hid themselves on the approach of the Achilpa and 
so escaped being seen by them. One of them was called 
Thai-interinia, and has a living descendant. After seeing the 
men with ErkincJia the party moved on and camped on a 
tableland close by, where they found an Unjiamba woman 


named Ultundurinia, who has now a living descendant. 
Marching on towards the west, they reached Ungunja and 
found there a Panunga man of the Unjiamba totem, whose 
name was Ultaintika, who is now represented by a living 
descendant. Then they followed the course of the Harry 
Creek to Apunga, until finally they came out on to the Burt 
Plain which lies just to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges. 
Here there was no water and the old men were very thirsty ; 
they dug for water without finding any and the holes which 
they dug out remain to the present day. The young men 
again bled themselves, but the blood was too hot to drink, so 
some of them were sent back to Ituka-intura to bring water 
which they carried back in their shields. While the young men 
were away, the old men dug out holes in the sand and lay down 
in them as wild dogs do. At this spot they found a Purula 
woman of theOuirra (bandicoot) totem who had a. iVin'ti/Nja, and 
is now represented by a living descendant. They also found a 
Panunga man of the same totem named Chimurinia, who also 
has a living descendant. Hence they moved on northwards to 
a big clay pan called Ilthwarra, where they performed Ariltha 
upon a number of their }-oung men and made Engwura. 
While travelling on from here the\' crossed the Hamm Range 
at a gap where the}- saw an old Bukhara man of the 
Undathirka (carpet-snake) totem named Kapirla who lived 
entirely upon carpet-snakes. The Achilpa men passed on and 
camped at Ilchinia-pinna, a little to the north of the range 
and here they made Engwura and ever\- night heard the 
sound of distant Nannnativinnas (or small bull-roarers). 
Thence they went to Utachuta, a little to the west of what is 
now called Ryans Well, where they found a large number of 
Ouirra or bandicoot men who were engaged in making an 
PLngwura. The Kaiiaua which these men had erected was 
visible from some distance, and it was from this place that the 
sounds of the bull-roarers had come. The Achilpa and 
Ouirra men mi.xed together and joined in the Engwura, the 
old men of both parties sending the young men out into the 
bush every da\'. The rite oi Ariltha was performed on all of 
the Ouirra men and also on .some of the Achilpa, and it is 
stated that the Ouirra men consisted of all classes. 


When the ceremonies were completed, the Achilpa men 
journeyed on to Inta-tella-warika and, bein^^ too tired to 
carry it, dragged the Kauaua behind them. At this place 
the\- found an old Panunga man of the Achilpa totem who 
had a large Nnrtunja, and who, on seeing them approach, 
opened avein in his arm and thus flooding the countr)-, drowned 
the Achilpa men in blood ; a large number of stones sprang 
up to mark the spot, and they still remain to show where the 
men went into the ground. The men carried with them a 
ver}- large number of Churinga, which are now in the sacred 
store-house at Inta-tella-warika. 

The third party of Achilpa or wild cat people consisted of 
one division of the original group which came out of the 
country now occupied by the Luritcha tribe, and split inta 
two after arriving at Yungurra. 

Under the direction of a Kumara man who was Atnijunia- 
la-truripa, the men took a north- westerh- course, crossed the 
Finke river just where it emerges from the long Finke gorge, 
through which, hemmed in between loft}- walls of quartzite, it 
passes from north to south across the James Range, and 
camped at Urapitchera near to a spot now called Running 
Waters. Here they erected the Kauaua, which the\- carried 
with them, and made an Engwura. At this place the}- found 
a number of Inturrita (pigeon) men and women of all classes 
who were cannibals. The Achilpa jjeople saw them eating 
human flesh, and two large round Churinga which are 
preserved in the sacred store-house at Urapitchera represent 
the heads of men who were eaten. 

The Inturrita killed their victims with long stone Churinga 
about the size of, and shaped like, the beaked boomerangs of 
the W^arramunga tribe. At this spot the Achilpa changed 
their language to that of the Arunta people, and, leaving a 
Purula man behind them, passed on to Itnunthawarra in the 
present Waterhouse Range, where the}' camped for a short 
time and performed ceremonies. Travelling slowly north- 
wards amongst the ranges the}- came to Iruntira on the 
Hugh river, where they left one man, a Bukhara whose name 
was Iruntirinia. Then the}- came to Okir-okira, a place ten 
miles to the north-west of the present Owen Springs, and 


thence travelled on to the junction of the Jay and Hugh 
where there was a Panunga woman living who showed them 
her ceremonies. She belonged to the Alk-na-innira (a large 
beetle totem. The Achilpa in return showed the woman 
some of their ceremonies and did not interfere with her. 
Leaving her, the Achilpa followed up the Jay Creek to 
Chelperla, where some time was spent in performing A///- 
purtanurra, and where the old leader remained behind. 
At this spot many of the part\- developed ErkincJia. 
Journex'ing on they came to Mount Conwa}-, a bold loft\- 
bluff in the Macdonnell Ranges, and close to its base 
the\- rested for a few hours before attempting the steep 
ascent. Then the\- crossed the mountain and camped at 
Xingawarta, a little way over on the northern side of the 
range, and here they performed ceremonies. Their ne.xt 
stopping place was Alia 'the nose), a sharplj- outlined hill in 
the most northern of the series of parallel ridges which all 
together form the ]\Iacdonnell Ranges. At this place the}' 
made Engwura and while the \'oung men, who were being 
initiated, were out in the bush, the}- came across a PurulH 
woman of the Ulchilkinja 'wattle seed) totem, with whom, 
contrar}- to one of the most rigid rules bv' which the Engwura 
is governed, and without the knowledge of the old men. the}- 
all had intercourse. At Alia, two men who were Kumara 
were left behind, aikl the part}- went on to Kuringbungwa.. 
and as, when the}' reached there, some of the old men were 
getting ver\' thin, the }-ounger men opened veins in their 
arms and, tf) strengthen them, gave them large draughts of 
blood, b}- which treatment the}- were much benefited. At 
ICnaininga, a waterhole on the Ja}- Cieek, they performed the 
rite of Ariltha upon a number of }-oung men, leaving un- 
touched those who were suffering from ErkiiicJia. Further on, 
at Iranira. they again performed the rite oi Ariltha, and here 
the}- left one man called L natta who was a Purula. Then 
the}- went on to Okinchalanina, where they performed 
ceremonies, and elaboratel}' painted the backs of all the men. 
The}' sta}'ed . here a short time making OkincJialauina 
(necklets), kulchea (armlets), and uliara (forehead bands), and 
when the\- again started to march on the\- left one man. a 


Panunga, behind them, as he was too ill with Erkincha to walk 
any further. They considered that the unlawful intercourse 
with the wattle seed woman had spread the disease and 
increased their sufferings.^ Still travelling amongst the 
ranges, they camped at various places, at one of which, called 
Lilpuririka, which means running like a creek, the old men 
■were again nourished with blood given to them by the young 
men. Leaving behind them an old Panunga man who was 
suffering from Erkincha, they travelled on to Ilartwiura, a 
waterhole on the Jay Creek, and erecting their Kaiimia, they 
performed sacred ceremonies, a large rockhole now marking 
the spot where the Kanaiia stood. Some more men 
developed Erkincha here. At their last stopping place 
amongst the ranges they stayed some little time, making 
Ampiirtanurra and performing AriltJia, and then they crossed 
the most northerly of the rocky ridges amongst the I\Iac- 
donnell Ranges, and came down on to the Burt Plain which 
stretches far away to the north. At Alpirakircha they found 
an old Kumara man of the Achilpa totem named Alpirakir- 
charinia, who had originated there and had a very large 
Nurtiinja which the}' had been able to see from the top of 
the last ridge which they had crossed. They performed Ariltha 
here upon a number of young men, including the local 
Achilpa man, and also made Engwura. Leaving the man in 
his camp, they went on to the west, away down the Burt Plain, 
and met two Achilpa women who had originated there. One 
was a Purula and the other a Kumara, and they had a 
Nurtimja which they hid away when the>' saw the Achilpa 
men coming. Without interfering with the women, the men 
camped and performed certain ceremonies, and then went on 
to L^ngatha where a man \\"as left behind named Ungutharinia. 
This man, like many of the part\-, was suffering from 
Erkincha ; at the present day he is represented b}- a living 
descendant whose secret name is, of course, Ungatharinia. 
Being now very tired the men went underground and 

^ This does not mean that ihey reast)ned from a strictly medical point of view ; 
their idea in a case of this kind is that a man suffering from Erkiinha conveys a 
magic evil influence, which they call Aritngqtiiltha, to the women, and by this 
means it is conveyed, as a punishment, to other men. 


followed a northerly course until they came to Udnirringintwa, 
where the\- made a great Engwura. Many of the party died 
here from £"/•/'/'// ^//rt", and a large numberof Churinga representing 
them are in the local store-house. A large sand hill also 
arose to mark the spot where the Parra, that is the long low- 
mound alwa}-s made on the Engwura ground, was raised, and 
this hill can be seen at the present da\-. The surviving 
members of the part\- — still a large one — went once more 
into the ground and came out again at Alkirra-lilima, where 
the\' camped for a long time and vcxd^dc Ampiirtaiuirm. The\- 
found there an old man of the Panunga class and Unjiamba 
totem whose name was Alkai}-a, and who had a big Xurtuiija 
and owned qiiabara iiiidattJia. Here again more men developed 
Erkincha. Travelling now above ground, the}- came to 
Achichinga in the vicinity of Mount Wells, where dwelt an 
old Panunga man of the Unjiamba totem, whose name was 
Achichingarinia. He possessed a large Xurtunja w-hich the 
leader of the Achilpa men tried to take b}- force, but the old 
man clung to it so closeh', and made such a ver\- loud arri- 
inkiinia ^ that he was forced to desist. 

The part}' here made qiiabara inidattha and changed it.s 
language to Achicha, which is a mixture of the Ilpirra and 
Kaitish tongues. Turning round the}- looked back upon 
their tracks and all said " We have come ver}- far." 

Leaving here the}' passed Parachinta, without seeing the 
Ullakupera and Quirra people who dwelt there, and camped 
at Appul}a, north of Parachinta, and close b}' here saw an 
old Bukhara man of the Irritcha beagle hawk) totem, who 
was out hunting and so had not got his Xurtunja \\\\\\ him, 
but when he saw the Achilpa men he ran back to his own 
countr}'. Ariltha was performed upon some of the young- 
men, and an Engwura was made. Then the}' went on to 
Arrarakwa, on Woodeforde Creek, where they found a 

' This is a loud sound made by shouting ait-au-an repeatedly, while the 
hand is held with the fingers slightly bent, and the palm towards the face, and 
moved rapidly backwards and forwards upon the wrist in front of the mouth. It 
is frequently used by the natives to attract the attention of any one at a distance. 
During the Engwura ceremony, for example, it was the signal used to call up the 
men who had been away from the ground while the ceremony was being 


Panunga man of the Achilpa totem who was busily engaged 
in making a Nurtunja. Upon him and others they performed 
Ariltha, and then, for some time, they camped at a spot 
higher up the creek making Ajiipiirtatmrra. At this part, the 
creek has a steep, high bank, which arose to mark the exact 
spot where the Kaumia rested against it before being erected. 
Here they left a Bukhara man and then went on to a place on 
the Hanson Creek, to the south-west of Central Mount Stuart, 
where they found an old Bukhara man of the Yarumpa 
(honey-ant) totem who was sitting by the side of a Kaumia, 
and they learned that Engwura ceremonies had just been 
made, and that all the young men were out in the bush. By 
and by they returned, and then the two parties mixed 
together, and the Achilpa performed Ariltha upon all the 
Yarumpa, including young and old men, and then commenced 
another Engwura which they did not wait to complete, but, 
leaving the Yarumpa people to finish it, they started on their 
journey and travelled on to Kurdaitcha, a spot to the west of 
Central Mount Stuart, where dwelt a large number of Achilpa 
of all classes who had originated there. After performing 
Ariltha upon all of them, the two parties mixed together and 
made a big Engwura. Going still further on, they met with a 
number of men and women belonging to all classes and to 
the Intilyapa-yapa (water beetle) totem, close to whom they 
camped, but without mixing with them. At a place called 
Okinyumpa an accident befell them which made them all 
feel very sad ; as they were pulling up the Kanaua which was 
very deeply implanted the old Oknirabata, who was leading 
them, broke it off just above the ground, and to the present 
day a tall stone standing up above the ground at this spot 
represents the broken, and still implanted, end of the pole. 

Carrying on the broken Kaiiaua they came to Unjiacherta, 
which means "the place of Unjiamba men " and lies near to the 
Hanson Creek. They arrived here utterly tired out, and found 
a number of Unjiamba men and women of all classes. They 
were too tired and sad to paint themselves, their Kaiiaiia in 
its broken state was inferior to many of those which the 
Unjiamba people had, so they did not erect it, but, lying down 
together, died where they lay. A large hill, covered with big 


stones, arose to mark the spot. Their Churinga, each with its 
associated spirit individual, remained behind. Many of them 
are very large and long, and are now in the Ertiiatnlunga 
or store-house at Unjiacherta. 

The fourth party of Achilpa or wild cat people was led by a 
Purula man who was remarkable for his strength and abnormal 
development, in which respect he is reported to have exceeded 
the celebrated Atniiiima-la-triiripa. He came from the 
country now inhabited by the Luritcha people, far away to the 
south-west of the Arunta, and brought with him two Panunga 
women. He had a Kauaiia, and carried under each arm a 
large bundle called Unkapera which, when he arrived at 
Erloacha, a place situated to the west of Hermannsburg on 
the Finke river, he opened. They contained a great number 
of men of various ages. After the parcels had been opened, 
a great Engwura was made, in which they all took part, and, 
after remaining here for a long time, the}' left two men behind, 
one a Panunga and the other a Purula, and then they travelled 
on. The old Purula who was leading them travelled at some 
little distance to one side of the main party, and his progress 
was slow owing to the size of his penis, which frequently struck 
the ground, digging furrows in it as he went along. While 
travelling they met at Yapilpa, a place now called Glen Helen 
Gorge, a party of Unthippa or dancing women, who were 
approaching from the west, dancing all the way along. 
With them the Achilpa men did not interfere but passed on, 
crossed the range, and then camped at Ulpmaltwitcha, a water- 
hole lying a little to the west of the position of i\Iount Sonder. 
After making quabara tindattJia they went on and crossed 
Mount Sonder, which is one of the highest peaks in the 
Macdonnell Ranges. While crossing they saw an old Illuta 
(bandicoot) man making large wooden pitchis, and therefore 
they called the place Urichipma, which means " the place of 
pitchis." ^ Here they paused and, presumably from the summit 
from which a very extensive view is to be obtained, looked 
back to see their tracks and a row of stones arose and still 

^ The natives of this part of the country are noted for the large pitchis, or 
wooden troughs, which they make out of the wood of the bean tree {Erythriiia 


remains to mark the spot. The}- went on and camped at 
Kurupma, north of Glen Helen, and after holding an Engwura, 
they left one man, an old Purula named Kurupmarinia, whose 
aged descendant now lives there and has charge of the 
store-house and Engwura ceremonies. 

Leaving here the}- proceeded to Poara, where the}- per- 
formed AriltJia and made Engwura, and where the}- also found 
a number of women of the Kakwa (hawk) totem, all of whom 
were Purula and some of whom were called Illapuriuja} These 
women had a A'urtuiija and sacred ceremonies which the}' 
showed to the xAchilpa men. The old leader of the latter 
had intercourse with a great number of the women, man}- of the 
younger ones dying in consequence. The Urliara, that is the 
full}' initiated men who had been through the Engwura, were also 
allowed access to them. Leaving behind several men of the 
Kumara and Purula classes the men, being ashamed of their 
excesses, started before da}-light and travelled on to Irpung- 
arthra, a water-hole on a creek running northwards. Here the}' 
camped and found a Purula woman of the Arawa totem. She 
had no Nurtiiuja but was in possession of several wooden 
Churinga which she hid awa}- on the approach of the party. 
Here they made qiiabara itiidattJia, which the woman was 
allowed to see, and afterwards AriltJia was performed uj^on 
some members of the part}-. Journeying on, the}- came to 
Al-lemma, a water-hole in one of the gorges which are often 
met with in this part of the country, and here they found a 
number of Kakwa (hawk) women and men who were all Purula 
and Kumara, and with whom they did not mix. They 
camped apart from them and then moved on to Ariltha, 
where they changed their language to the Ilpirra tongue and 
camped here for a long time, finding again a number of hawk 
men and women all of the same classes as before. Here the 
old leader caused his abnormal development to disappear and 
he became like an ordinary man, and then the travelling and 
resident groups mixed together. After the performance of 
Ariltha, a big Engwura was made, the women, as at the 
present day, making fur- string necklaces and armlets. 
Thence they went on to a place in the scrub not far from Lake 

^ Ilalpm-iuja means "the changed one." 


Macdonald, where the}* found as before another lot of hawk 
men and women. Here the}- performed ceremonies and left 
one Kumara man whose descendant is now living. Then they 
went to Irincha, a large clay pan, where they found a Panunga 
man of the Irpunga (fish) totem who was engaged in catching 
fish, of which the water was full. The}' were afraid of the 
number of fish in the water and did not interfere with the 
man, whose name was Ungunawungarinia, but camped a little 
distance awa}-, making Ampiirtamirra, and stayed here a long 
time. Then they went on to Alknalilika, a spot lying to the 
south of Anna's Reservoir, where they found a number of 
Tulkara (quail) women who had no Nurtiuija or Churinga 
and lived entirely on Intwuta, a kind of grass seed. Upon 
seeing these women the Achilpa men hid away their Kauaua 
and all had intercourse with them. Without performing any 
ceremonies they went on to Inkuraru, where Ariltha was 
performed upon a number of the part}'. A number of 
Churinga were deposited in a mulga tree close to the 
camp, where they still remain, and a large stone arose at 
the spot where Ariltha was performed. After crossing 
one range the}' came to another l}'ing away to the north 
and called Irti-ipma, where was a large waterhole. Here 
the}- camped, made qiiabara undattJia and left one man, 
a Bukhara, and then journeyed on, meeting a woman 
of the Tchanka (bull-dog ant) totem who was a kind of 
Onuicha (" devil-devil ") creature of whom they were much 
afraid, thinking that she might bite them. She had neither 
Nurtunja nor Churinga, and giving her a wide berth the}- 
went on to Kuntitcha, where they camped and found a 
large number of Ouirra (bandicoot) men who were unable 
to walk, in fact they were creatures like the Liapertwa. 
All of these were killed, and then Ariltha was performed 
and an Engwura held. One man, a Purula named 
Kuntitcharinia, was left behind whose descendant is still 

Tradition says that from here they journeyed northwards 
and finally stopped in the country of the salt water forming 
Oknanikilla or local totem centres as they travelled along. 

E E 


The Later Alcheringa 

We have already seen that, according to the traditions of 
the middle Alcheringa, there were no restrictions to marriage 
such as now obtain. At Urthipita, for example, a Purula man 
and a Kumara woman, both of the Unjiamba (Hakea flower) 
totem, are represented as having been found living together 
by the Achilpa people. Again at Ertua there lived two 
Ertua or wild turkey women, one of whom is expressly 
stated to have had a child, and to have been the" wife of 
an old Kumara man of the same totem ; and at other 
places groups of hawk men and women, all of the Purula 
and Kumara classes, who may not now marry one another, are 
represented as living together. 

The class names had been given in the first place by the 
Ullakupera men who had traversed the country prior to the 
advent of the Achilpa. It looks much as if the traditions 
relating to the middle Alcheringa were concerned with a 
people whose organisation and marriage system were very 
different from those of the present Arunta tribe. The 
traditions as we know them now cannot, in respect to this 
matter, be simply explained by supposing that the references 
to the classes and totems are due to the fact that they have 
grown up amongst a people who have these class and totem 
names. If it were nothing more than this, then we should 
not expect to find such specific references to the living 
together of Purula and Kumara men and women, which is 
exactly the reverse of what now takes place, and is, by the 
natives, regarded as having taken place ever since the later 
Alcheringa times. It seems as if the traditions can only be 
explained on the supposition that the class names which were 
given by the Ullakupera men entailed restrictions upon 
marriage, but restrictions which were of a different kind from 
those introduced at a later period. What these restrictions 
were, it does not seem possible to gather from the traditions 
concerned with the early and middle Alcheringa times, and 
there do not appear to be any now known to the natives 
which throw any light upon the matter, though perhaps the 
constant reference to the class and totem names may be 


regarded as evidence that restrictions of some nature did 
exist. One thing appears to be quite clear, and that is, that 
we see in these early traditions no trace whatever of a time 
when the totems regulated marriage in the way now 
characteristic of many of the Australian tribes. There is not 
a solitary fact which indicates that a man of one totem must 
marr}- a woman of another ; on the contrary we meet 
constant!}', and onl\-, with groups of men and women of the 
same totem living together ; and, in these early traditions, 
it appears to be the normal condition for a man to have as 
wife a woman of the same totem as himself At the same 
time there is nothing to show definitely that marital relations 
were prohibited between individuals of different totems, 
though, in regard to this, it must be remembered that the 
instances recorded in the traditions, in which intercourse took 
place between men and women of different totems, are all 
concerned with the men of special groups, such as the 
Achilpa ; further still, it may be pointed out that these were 
powerful groups who are represented as marching across 
countr}', imposing certain rites and ceremonies upon other 
people with whom the}' came in contact. The intercourse of 
the Achilpa men with women of other totems may possibly 
have been simph' a right, forcibly exercised by what ma}' be 
regarded as a conquering group, and ma}' have been subject 
to no restrictions of any kind. 

As to the people with whom the Achilpa came into contact, 
and whom they found settled upon the land, the one most 
striking and at the same time most interesting fact, is, as just 
stated, that a man was free to marr}- a woman of his own 
totem (as he is at the present day), and further still we may 
even say that the evidence seems to point back to a time 
when a man always married a woman of his own totem. 
The references to men and women of one totem always living 
together in groups would appear to be too frequent and 
explicit to admit of any other satisfactory explanation. We 
never meet with an instance of a man living with a woman 
who was not of his own totem ^ as we surely might expect to 

' That is in connection with those groups with whom the various wandering 
parties came in contact. The members of all wandering parties appear to have 
had intercourse more or less freely w ith women of other totems. 

E E 2 


do if the form of the traditions were simply due to their 
having grown up amongst a people with the present organisa- 
tion of the Arunta tribe. It is only, during these early times, 
when we come into contact with a group of men marching 
across strange country that we meet, as we might expect to 
do, with evidence of men having intercourse with women 
other than those of their own totem. 

Turning now to the later Alcheringa period, we find that 
it was after the time of the Ungambihila, the Ullakupera 
and the Achilpa, that the organisation now in vogue was 
adopted. The present system of marriage, and a proper 
understanding of the class system, is traditionally ascribed to 
the wisdom of the Erlia (emu) people of four widely separated 
localities. The Oknirabata, or great leader of the Thurathertwa 
group, living near to what is now called Glen Helen in the 
Macdonnell Range, proposed a system which permitted of 
Panunga men marrying Purula women, and of Bukhara men 
marrying Kumara women, and vice versa. According to 
this, men and women who now stand in the relation of 
Unkiilla, as well as those standing in the present relation 
of Unawa, could marry each other. His proposal was carried 
out in his immediate neighbourhood, and he was also 
supported by the Oknirabata of the southern emu people 
living at a place called Umbachinga. 

The Oknirabata of the Ulalkira and Urliipma groups, who 
lived about one hundred miles to the north, were what is 
called Chariinka, which means very wise, and they said that 
it was not good for Unkiilla to marry. At a meeting between 
them and the two other Oknirabata, it was decided that the 
plan of the northern men was the better one, and made, as 
the natives say, things go straight, and it was decided to adopt 
the new system. 

Tradition says that the Oknirabata of one of the northern 
emu groups living at Urliipma, sent out Inwurra, that is 
messengers carrying the sacred Churinga, to summon the 
people from all directions. They assembled at Urliipma, 
which is situated in the country of the Ilpirra tribe awa}' to 
the north of the Macdonnell Range, and were led thence by 
the Oknirabata, whose name was Ungwurnalitha, to Apaura, 
now called the Belt Range, where a great Engwura was held. 


After this was over all the people stood up, each man with his 
wife or wives behind him, and those who were wrongly united 
were separated, and the women were allotted to their proper 
[/naiaa men. The old man Ungwurnalitha presided at the 
Engwura, and he was assisted by old emu men of Ulalkira, 
Thuratherita, Umbuchinia and other places, all of whom had 
agreed with him that the change should be introduced. 

The intermarrying halves stood in the relationship of U^iawa 
to each other, this term being a reciprocal one, while the other 
halves were Unkiilla to each other. Thus if we take the case 
of a Panunga man, under the old system all Purula women 
were eligible to him as wives, but under the new one only 
halfof the Purula were Unawa to him, and half were Unkulla; 
with the former, or rather with those of them assigned to him, 
he might have marital relations, but the latter were strictly 
forbidden to him. 

Taking all these traditions together we can see in them 
indications, more or less clear, of the following stages which 
are supposed by the natives to have been passed through in the 
development of the tribe so far as its organisation and certain 
important customs are concerned. 

We have : — 

(i.) A period during which two individuals who lived in 
the western sky, and were called Ungauibikula, came down 
to earth and transformed Inapertwa creatures into human 
beings whose totem names were naturally those of the animals 
or plants out of which they were transformed. The Ungam- 
bikula also performed the rite of circumcision on certain, 
but not all, of the men, using for this purpose a fire-stick. 

(2.) A period during which the Ullakupera or little hawk 
men introduced the use of the stone knife during circum- 
cision. In addition they carried on the work commenced by 
the Ungambikula of transforming Inapcrtiva creatures into 
human beings, and further still, they introduced the class 
names now in, viz. Panunga, Purula, Bulthara, Kumara. 
We may presume that along with the introduction of the 
class names there was instituted in connection with them 
some system of marriage regulations, but what exactly this 
was, there is not sufficient evidence to show. 


(3.) A period, following closely upon the latter, during 
which the Achilpa or wild cat men introduced the rite of 
Ariltha or sub-incision. It is said of the Achilpa, also, that 
they arranged the initiation ceremonies in their proper order, 
first circumcision, then sub-incision, and lastly the Engwura. 

(4.) A period during which, first of all, the marriage system 
was changed owing to the influence of certain Erlia or emu 
people, with the result that Purula men might marry Panunga 
women, Bukhara men Kumara women, and vice versa. 
Secondly, and at a later period, each of these classes was 
divided into two, so that, to a Panunga man, for example, 
only half of the Purula women were eligible as wives, the 
other half being Unkidla or forbidden to him. 

It is not without interest to note that, according to tradition, 
the emu men who introduced the division of the classes now 
in use, lived away to the north, because the adoption of the 
distinctive names for the eight groups thus created is at 
the present time taking place in the Arunta tribe, and, as a 
matter of actual fact, these eight names did originate in the 
north, and are now slowly spreading southwards through the 



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.,— .-«ERLIUNP* 





The Udnirringita totem — Alice Springs group consists of forty individuals at the 
present day — Emily Gap the centre of the totem — Wanderings of Udnirringita 
people from various places into the Gap — The wanderings of two women — ^A 
bandicoot \soman performs .-//Y/Ma on an Unjiamba woman, and then changes 
the totem of the latter — Two women join the wandering Ulpnierka men and 
travel on with Kukaitcha northwards — Wanderings of the wild dogs — Two 
young men steal the two Churinga of an old man, who pursues them to 
Mount Gillen — They kill and eat wild dog people — The old man is killed on 
Mount Gillen — The young men travel to the north and go down into the 
ground — Wanderings of two Unjiamba women — Travel southwards and 
stop at Ooraminna — Wanderings of emu, honey-ant and lizard men — The 
Unthippa women — Give rise to deposits of red ochre — Line of hills arise to 
mark their route — The Unthippa dance at circumcision — Tradition of Erkincha 
— Tradition of the snake of Imyunga — The fire totem — Origin of fire — The 
Oritiuhertwa and the Oknirabata — Association of birds with particular totems. 

The Udnirringita or Witchettv Grub Totem 

The most important group of the Udnirringita totem is 
located in the neighbourhood of AHce Springs in the northern 
part of the Macdonnell Ranges, and consists all told — men, 
women and children — of forty individuals, which is the 
largest number, in any one local group, with which we are 
acquainted. The totemic name is derived from that of a 
grub or larva, which in turn derives its name from a bush 
called Udnirringa, upon which the insect feeds and deposits 
its eggs. The bush bears a berry of which emus are very 

The Udnirringita people in this locality occupy a tract 
of country which is about lOO square miles in extent, and 
through the centre of which runs a range of often lofty hills, 


amongst which occur the gaps or gorges with which they are 
especially associated. The western boundary of their country 
is co-terminous with the eastern wall of the gap called by the 
natives Untariipa, and by the whites the Heavitree Gap. 
The eastern boundary is formed by the Adnurinia or Jessie 

At various places throughout this district Udnirringita 
people originated in the Alcheringa from their animal ances- 
tors, and these Alcheringa people deposited Churinga at 
various spots during the course of their wanderings, or where 
they originated. The Alcheringa Udnirringita people, both 
men and women, are supposed to have been full of eggs, 
which are now represented by rounded water-worn stones, 
many of which are stored in the Ertnatuhinga at the various 
gaps, and are called Churinga UncJihna. Every prominent, 
and many insignificant natural features throughout this strip 
of country — the most picturesque part of the great central 
area of the continent — has some history attached to it. For 
example, a gaunt old gum tree, with a large projecting bole 
about the middle of the trunk, indicates the exact spot where 
an Alcheringa man, who was very full of eggs, arose when 
he was transformed out of a witchetty grub. When he died 
his spirit part remained behind along with his Churinga, and 
used to especially frequent this tree, and therefore, when that 
spirit went inside a woman of the local group and was re- 
incarnated in the form of a man who died a few years ago, 
that special tree was the Nanja tree of that man. An insig- 
nificant looking splinter of black, gneissic rock, projecting 
from the ground at another spot, indicates the exact place 
at which a woman of the Alcheringa arose whose living 
reincarnation — an old woman — is now to be seen at Alice 

Emily Gap, or, as it is called by the natives, Unthurqua, is, 
probably, owing to its central position, the most important 
spot in the Udnirringita country. It is a narrow gorge not 
more than a hundred yards from end to end and about thirty 
in width, hemmed in by precipitous rocks of red quartzite, 
and runs from north to south right across the long ridge 
which, for some 200 miles, bounds the Horn or Mercenie valley 


on its southern side. Within a radius of two miles of this 
gap there are eight or ten holes, varying from three to five 
feet in depth, which are supposed to have been sunk, in the first 
instance, by the Alcheringa men. They are called IltJiiira, 
and are strictly tabu to women and children, who must not on 
any pretence go near to them, and their exact locality is well 
known to all of the members of the local group. Each hole 
contains, carefully covered over, one large stone called 
Churinga Uchaqua, which represents the witchetty in its 
chrysalis stage, and a smaller, more rounded stone, called 
Churinga Unchiina, which represents the &^^ stage. 

It was just within the northern entrance to the gorge, at 
a spot marked now by a large stone, close to which stands 
the trunk of an old and long since dead gum tree, that the 
great Alcheringa leader of the witchetties. who was named 
Intwailiuka, sprang into existence. With him and with the 
people whose leader he was man\- of the natural features of 
the gorge are, as we shall shortly see, associated in tradition. 

The stone has since been associated with the spirit, not only 
of the dead Intwailiuka, but also with one or two men who 
have been regarded as his successive reincarnations, the last of 
whom was the father of the present Alatunja of the group. 
A number of smaller stones close b}- represent men who sat 
there with him, for during his life he spent much time in this 
spot, which he chose because, owing to its position, he could 
easily guard the approach to the gap and at the same time 
keep watch over the sacred store-house of the Churinga, which 
was always located in one of the many clefts which he made 
in the rocks for this purpose. 

In the western wall of the gap is situated the sacred cave 
which is called the Iltlmra oknira, or the great Ilthiim, at 
which he performed the ceremony called Intickmma, the 
object of which was then, as at the present day, to increase 
the number of the Udnirringita grub on which he and his 
companions fed. Directly opposite to this, but low down on 
the eastern wall of the gap, is the sacred I/kinia, a drawing on 
the rocks which it is believed sprang up spontaneously to mark 
the spot where the Alcheringa women painted themselves, and 
stood peering up and watching while Intwailiuka and his men 



performed Intichiiuna. This spot is called the Erlukwirra, or 
camp of the women, in the Alcheringa, and one of the draw- 
ings is supposed to represent a woman leaning on her elbow 
against the rocks and gazing upwards. In this, as in many- 
other instances, we meet with traditions showing clearly that in 
past times the position of women in regard to their associa- 
tion with sacred objects and ceremonies was very different 
from that which they occupy at the present day, when, 
for example, no woman dare to venture near to the sacred 


spot while InticJiiunia was being performed there. About 
200 feet below the Ilthura, a steep, broad belt band of 
quartzite, less weathered than the surrounding rock, stands 
out and dips steeply down into the bed of the creek. This is 
called Alkiialinta, which means " eyes painted around," and 
indicates where, in the Alcheringa, Intwailiuka stood in the 
bed of the creek at the base of the rock. Standing here 
he threw numbers of CImringa Unchima, or eggs, up the 
face of the rock, just as is now done during the InticJiiuuia 


ceremony. Here also he used to sit while he pounded up 
large quantities of the grub. On the northern edge of the 
rock is a long, deep, ridge-shaped depression, which looks as if 
the stone had been cut out with a great knife, and this marks 
the spot where the special pitchi of Intwailiuka rested while 
he poured into it the pulverised grubs. A high precipitous 
wall of rock rises abruptly from the top of the .-///"w^r/////^, and 
in a line with the mass of rock an old pine tree stands 


The block of stone in the foreground is the Naiija rock of Intwailiuka, the leader 
of the Witchctty grubs. 

and marks the spot where Chnringa Uiichima were stored b\' 
Intwailiuka for ItiticJiinnia purposes, and where they are stiil 
stored by his successors. These special Churinga represent 
the eggs which the Alcheringa people carried in their bodies, 
and at the present da}' ever\- man belonging to the totem has 
a few of these A\hich he believes were carried thus by his 
Alcheringa ancestors, and w hen he dies they arc buried with 
him. An\- round pebble found in the \icinity of the gap ma\' 


be one of these Churinga, but only the old men are able 
to tell whether it is genuine or not. 

Looking south from the spot last referred to, a group of 
stones can be seen which mark the spot where a group of 
men coming into the gap in the Alcheringa sat down. At 
the west side of the northern entrance a great jumble of 
quartzite boulders, much weather-worn, indicates the spot 
where the grub men, who marched into this, the headquarters 
of the totem, from a place called Ulathirka, sat down. Just 
outside the northern end of the gap a group of gum trees indi- 
cates where the people who marched, in from Ungunja sat down, 
and further still up the creek, a large boulder, standing in the 
bed, indicates where a celebrated old man, the leader of one 
group of the Alcheringa, sat down. Up on the western bank, 
a group of gum trees and acacia scrub indicates where the 
men coming in from Urliipma sat. 

The Udnirringita people of this, their central group, did not 
wander about, and they are not recorded as having had 
any Inapcrtzva ancestors, but the grubs are supposed to have 
been transformed directly into human beings. Whilst, how- 
ever, those who originated at the Emily Gap, according to 
tradition, remained there, other groups are recorded as having 
immigrated to the same spot from outside parts of the 

The first to come were the Udnirringita from a place called 
Urliipma, which lies twenty miles away to the east of the 
present telegraph line, where it passes on to the Burt Plain at 
the northern side of the Macdonnell Ranges. They were led 
by an old Bulthara man, who was what is called Erilknabata, 
that is, a very wise man of the Alcheringa, his wisdom being 
commensurate with the length of his name, which was 
Irpapirkirpirirrawilika. They travelled at first under the 
ground until they reached Atnamala, a place a little to the 
east of Painta Springs, where they fed on Udnirringita, 
painted their bodies with the totemic design, and fixed many 
Lalkira^ or nose bones, in their hair. Thence they travelled 
above ground, and came on south to Okirilla, where they 
cooked and ate many Udnirringita, and also made IiiticJiiuma^ 
and left the Chiringa Uchaqiia stones, which now remain 


there, in the Ilthiira which they used. Thence they travelled 
to Unthurqua, or the Emil)- Gap, where they sat down on the 
northern entrance, the old man Intwailiuka warning them to 
come no further. 

The next part}- to immigrate consisted of men from a place 
out to the west in the neighbourhood of Mount Heuglin. Un- 
like the Urliipma people the}Tiad some women with them and 
were led by a Panunga man named Ilpiriiwuka, who, when he 
found that Intwailiuka would not allow him to come within 
the sacred precincts of the Emily Gap, became angry and, 
leaving his party, returned to Ulathirka, where his descendant 
is now living amongst the Udnirringita of that locality. This 
party travelled first of all to Atnamala, where, like the first 
group, they painted their bodies with the Ilkmia of the totem 
and made Inticliiiima. Thence the}' travelled south-east to 
Yia-pitchera, about six miles west of Alice Springs, where 
again they painted themselves and fed upon the grub, a large 
waterhole springing up to mark the spot where the grubs 
were cooked. Thence, after travelling only half a mile to 
Xang-wulturra, they again painted themselves, ate grubs, and 
another waterhole was formed. Travelling south the}' came 
to what is now called Charles Creek, where they performed 
sacred ceremonies and left a Panunga woman. Then, 
following down the creek, they came to Ilpillachilla, where they 
stopped for a few hours and decorated themselves with the 
Ilkinia designs. Then they went on to Kiula, a clay-pan 
about three miles to the south of Alice Springs, where they 
again painted the Ilkinia on their bodies and left one man, a 
Bukhara named Ulaliki-irika, whose last descendant died a 
short time ago. Then they travelled on to the east along the 
plain which is bounded on the south by the range through 
which the PLmily Gap runs, and at a spot about three miles 
further on, which is now indicated by a great heap of stones, 
the}- stopped to listen for the voice of Intwailiuka, and 
presently they heard him singing about the coming of a 
Panunga man. Leaving behind them a Panunga man named 
Ilpiriiwuka, whose descendant is now living in the person of a 
little boy, they travelled on to an IltJiura about two miles 
away from the gap, where they met a number of the local 


Udnirringita people whom they joined, and then all of them 
went into the ground and came out again at the entrance to 
the gap on the western side. They were warned by 
Intwailiuka not to come any further on, so they sat down and 
their leader at once returned to Ulathurka. Where they sat 
down, a large number of black stones arose to mark the spot. 
At a later time Intwailiuka led the party to the Ilthnra 
Oknira, where they assisted him to perform InticJimma. 

After this party, there came another from Wulpa, a spot 
amongst the sand hills west of Mount Burrell on the Hugh 
River. This was led by an old Panunga man named Akwitha- 
intuya. The men of this party travelled underground to 
Yinthura passing, but at some miles distant, Imanda, where 
at that time the Achilpa and Unchichera were making 
Engwura. Here they made quabara nndattha and ate 
Udnirringita. They then travelled on, above ground, to 
Nukwia, east of Ooraminna, where they left a Panunga man ; 
thence they came to a large clay-pan on the Emily Plain, 
made Engwura and then passed on to Intiripita, where they 
performed ceremonies and left two men, one a Panunga named 
Urangara,and the other a Bukhara named Irchuangwa. Then 
they passed on to Ilpirikulla, where a Panunga woman was left, 
and finally they reached the southern entrance to the Emily 
Gap where they were stopped by Intwailiuka and sat down, 
a group of stones now marking the spot. After their arrival 
they performed Ariltha upon some members of their party, 
the operator being a great medicine man named Urangara. 

Another party came from Unthurkunpa, a range about fifty 
miles away to the east of Alice Springs, where there still 
exists a witchetty totem centre. They were led by a 
Bukhara named Intwailiuka, whose living descendant is the 
present Alatunja of the Alice Springs, or, to speak more 
correctly, of the Emily Gap group of Udnirringita. The 
members of this party at first travelled underground to 
Entukatira, a creek some miles to the east of Undoolya, 
where they ate witchetty grubs and painted themselves with 
Ilkinia. Thence they went on to Iliarinia, where they again 
painted and left a Bukhara man named Unchalka. Then 
they travelled on to the south and, after one or two halts, 


reached the entrance to the Jessie Gap, where they saw a 
number of witchetty men, amongst whom was a Bukhara 
named Kakathurika, who warned them not to approach any 
nearer to the gap and whose descendant is now the Alatunja 
of that group of the totem.^ 

Then they journeyed on to LaHknika on the Emih' Creek 
about four miles north of the gap, where they painted Ilkinia 
on their bodies and left one woman, a Panunga, whose 
descendant is one of the daughters of the present Alatunja of 
Emily Gap. Thence they travelled on to the Todd River, 
where some men and women were left, and then, following the 
banks down to a spot, about half a mile away from the gap, 
where a Panunga man named Pitcha-arinia was left, they 
rested for a short time and then went on till they came to the 
eastern side of the Emily Gap, where they sat down all together 
and a group of trees arose to mark the place. 

The last party of immigrants came from Ungwia in the 
Hart Ranges. The members of this party were of both sexes, 
and they travelled underground until they reached Ilpirulcha, 
a spot on the Emily Creek a few miles to the north of 
the gap, where they painted themselves with Ilkinia and ate 
witchetty grubs Then they went on to Achilpa-interninja, the 
spot at which one of the travelling groups of the Achilpa lost 
a small Churinga. After painting themselves here and 
eating some more of the totemic grub, they came to LaHknika, 
and then on to one of the Ilthura, where they halted because 
the}' heard the voice of Intwailiuka singing. Here the\- left 
one Bukhara man, and going on stopped every now and then 
to listen for the singing. Camping on the Emily Creek half 
a mile to the north of the spot called Chalipita, they left here 
a Bukhara woman named Chantunga, and then going on 
they performed some sacred ceremonies. Leaving behind one 

^ This warning on the part of Intwailiuka at the Emily Gap, and of Kakathurika 
at the Jessie Gap appears to indicate the exclusive right over a particular area of 
country which was claimed by, and accorded to, the inhabitants of that area. 
Even men of the same totem are not allowed to enter without permission from the 
head man. The same feeling very clearly exists at the present day, as is shown 
by the fact that a strange black, coming up to a camp, never thinks of going 
straight up to it, but sits down at some little distance and then waits until he is 
invited to come forward by the old men 


Bukhara man, whose descendant is now living, they came to 
I-yathika, and found there a Bukhara man of their own totem. 
Here they could plainly hear Intwailiuka singing of the coming 
of the men from Ungwia, so they at once went on to the 
mouth of the gap, a group of trees arising to mark the 
spot where they stood. Intwailiuka objected to their passing 
through the gap, so they entered the ground and came up 
again on the south side at Ertichirticha, where they found the 
Wulpa people had previously sat down. The only living 
descendant of this group is a man named Ertichirticharinia, 
who now lives at Alice Springs. They wished to continue 
their journey to Wulpa, but Intwailiuka told them to remain, 
so they sat down and stayed at the gap, and a group of gum 
trees marks the spot where they sat down. 

At the present time there are just forty individuals who are 
regarded as the descendants of the original resident group of 
Emily Gap and of the immigrant parties. Of these forty, 
twenty-six are the descendants of the former and fourteen are 
the descendants of the latter, and out of the total number only 
five belong to the Purula and Kumara moiety of the tribe. 

The Wanderings of Three Women 

A woman of the Panunga class and Ouirra (bandicoot) 
totem, left a place called Ilki-ira, lying to the north of Anna's 
Reservoir, and, carrying with her a Nurtunja and Churinga, 
travelled south to Intita-laturika, where she found another 
Panunga woman of the Unjiamba totem who also had a 
Nurtunja. She took this woman and her Nurtunja with her, 
and, still travelling south, came to a place called Alkniara, to 
the east of, and not far from Mount Heuglin. Here they 
camped and made quabara undattka, and the Quirra woman 
performed the operation of Atna ariltha-kuma on her com- 
panion, a great gully arising at the spot, and, in the middle of 
this, a large stone to mark the exact place where, after the 
performance, the women went down into the ground, under- 
neath which they travelled southwards to Ariltha. Here 
they made quabara tuidattha and then went on to Arur- 
umbya, where they found erected the Nurtunja of a Bukhara 


man named Akwithaka, of the bandicoot totem. The bandicoot 
woman here painted her Unjiamba companion with Quirra 
iindattha^ z.x\<\ so caused her to change her totem to Quirra, after 
which, the tradition says, she fed exclusivel}- on bandicoot. The 
owner of the Nurtiuija was absent searching for bandicoot, and 
the\- did not see him, but, being afraid lest he should follow 
their tracks, the}- entered the ground and went on to Urtiacha 
in the Waterhouse Range, where they again made qiiabara 
2mdattha, and then came on to a spot five miles to the east 
of Owen Springs, where by means of qiiabara tindattJia the 
woman who was originally Unjiamba and Panunga, changed 
herself into a Kumara and remained there altogether. Her 
name was Illapurinja, which means, the changed one. 

The remaining woman now went on alone to Urapitchera, 
near to what is now called Boggy Waterhole on the Finke, 
where she found a number of Achilpa people making Engwura ; 
she caused blood to flow from her sexual organs in great 
volume, directing it towards the people, who at once fled to a 
spot close by which is now marked by a number of stones 
which sprung up where the}- took refuge. The blood covered 
the Engwura ground and formed a fine clay-pan which 
remains to the present day. 

Finding at Urapitchera a Kumara woman of the bandicoot 
totem, she took her on as companion and started off under- 
ground towards the north-east. After making qiiabara at 
various places they were chased b}- an old Kumara man of 
the lizard totem, named Yukwirta, but he could not capture 
them, and so they went on until the}- camped at Inkila-quatcha. 
where they found the Ulpmerka of the plum-tree totem \\-ho 
subsequently travelled northwards under the guidance of 
Kukaitcha and were at that time engaged in making Churinga 
by means of opossum teeth, which they used to draw the designs 
with. With the Ulpmerka the two women went to Ouiurnpa, 
which was close by, and there Kukaitcha decorated the Kumara 
woman with sacred down, and thus caused her to change her 
class from Kumara to Panunga, and thus she became Qiiitia, 
that is, younger sister of the other woman. 

1 Quirra undattha is bird's down which has been used for decoration in connec- 
lion with a sacred ceremony of the Quirra or bandicoot totem and has thus become 
identified with the latter. 

F F 


It has been already described in the account of the 
Engvviira how these two women accompanied the Ulpnierka 
as they travelled northwards from Ouiurnpa under the 
guidance of the great Kukaitcha. It was this party of 
Ulpmerka who were camped at Aurapuncha, when one of the 
wandering parties of Achilpa came and joined them, and 
finally changed into Ulpmerka men of the plum-tree totem. 

Wanderings of Three Wild Dog Men 

In the Alcheringa there dwelt at Chilpma, about one 
hundred miles east south-east of Alice Springs, three men of 
the Ukgnulia or wild dog totem ; one was an old Bukhara man 
named Kaltiwilyika, and two were young men, both Panunga, 
one named Kalterinya and the other Ulthulperinya. The 
old man had a string bag, called Inika or Apitnga, in which 
he kept two Churinga. The two young men stole this bag 
and ran away followed by the old man who carried a great 
stabbing spear called Wallira. The two younger ones travelled 
away towards the north-west, and came to Uchirka, where they 
found an old woman of the wild dog totem, with a newly-born 
child, both of whom they killed and ate, leaving some meat 
for the old man. Here they left a Churinga from which 
sprang subsequently a man called Uchirkarinia, whose descen- 
dant is now living. 

Leaving Uchirka they travelled quickly, being afraid of the 
old man, and during the day passed Therierita, where 
they saw a large mob of Achilpa. They went on and camped 
at Itnuringa, where they found some Oruncha men with whom 
they were afraid to interfere and camped at Ulkupiratakima, 
a rock-hole on the Emily Plain, about eighteen miles to the 
south-east of Alice Springs. Here they found an old woman 
of the wild dog totem, whom they killed and proceeded to eat, 
and while thus engaged, the old man came in sight. They 
just had time to conceal the bag with the Churinga in it, when 
he came and sat down a little distance from them without 
speaking. They gave him meat, but he only ate a very little 
of it, being sulky. That night they were afraid to sleep lest 
the old man should kill them, and before daylight they ran 


away and came on to Pilyiqua, where there are some small 
rock-holes. Here they camped and found some small wild dog 
men, some of whom they killed and ate. The old man again 
overtook them and again they gave him meat, of which he 
would only eat a little, being still very sulky and on the 
look-out for an opportunity of killing them. Once more 
they ran away before daylight and, passing a hill called 
Irpalpa, about seven miles south of Alice Springs, they 
travelled on to Okniambantwa or ]\Iount Gillen, where they 
camped on top of the range and found an old woman of the 
wild dog totem whom they killed and ate. The old man 
came up later on, but the two young men had hidden them- 
selves. He saw, however, a lot of wild dog men who had 
originated here (this lies in a wild dog locality at the present 
day), and thinking the two might be in their midst he attacked 
them with his great spear and killed several, after which 
they all combined together and killed him. 

The local men were very angry, and so the two young 
men being afraid to join them, went up into the sky taking 
the bag with them. They went away towards the north- 
west and did not alight until they reached Ulthirpa, which is 
nearly seventy miles from Alice Springs. Here they camped and 
found a Bukhara man of the wild dog totem named Ulthir- 
pirinia, whose descendant is now living, and who lived only 
on wild dog flesh (the animal not the man), of which he 
consumed large quantities. He had a Niirtunja and quabara 
undattha, which he showed to the two young men, who then 
went on foot to Erwanchalirika, where they found a Bukhara 
wild dog man whom they killed and ate. He had no Xiirtunja 
or Churinga. After eating him their faces became suffused 
with blood, producing a most uncomfortable feeling, so that 
they relieved each other by sucking one another's cheeks. 

Travelling on they passed the spots now called Johnston's 
Well and Harding's Soakage, both on the Woodforde Creek, 
and at the latter found a big XurUinja erected which belonged 
to an old Panunga wild dog named Kalterinia, who was of 
remarkable appearance, having a broad white streak down 
the centre of his face. They joined him and he showed them 
his quabara undattha. At Imbatna, seven miles further north, 

F F 2 


they found another wild dog man with a Nurtiinja and 
ceremonies, and then they turned sHghtly towards the west 
and came to Eri-quatcha, where they opened up the bag 
and looked at the Churinga which fluttered about in the most 
extraordinary manner. They closed it up again, and travelling 
on crossed Hanson Creek at Urumbia, and reach Kurdaitcha 
away to the west of Central Mount Stuart, where, long after- 
wards, one of the Achilpa parties camped. Here they 
deposited the bag containing the Churinga, from which 
sprung a Kumara man whose name was Kurdaitcharinia. A 
large stone arose at the spot where the Churinga was deposited. 
Only one wild dog man can arise, at a time, at the spot which 
lies in the middle of an Achilpa locality. After they had 
deposited the Churinga one of the men mounted on to the 
back of the other and went into the ground, and it is only the 
far away western people who know where they came out 

Wanderings of Two Unjiamba or Hakea Women 

Two women of the Unjiamba totem, named respectively 
Abmoara and Kuperta, sprang up at Ungwuranunga, about 
thirty-five miles north of Alice Springs, where they had a 
Niu'tunja and Churinga, and dwelt alongside their Ertnatu- 
lunga. Leaving this place they entered the ground, and came 
out again at Arapera, where they saw a Purula wild cat 
woman named x'\rilthamariltha, who originated here and had 
a big Nurtimja, and whose descendant is now alive. The two 
women did not join her but camped close by, and ate 
Unjiamba, on which the}^ always fed. Thence, travelling 
above ground, they went to Okillalatunga, where they erected 
their Nurtiinja and walked about looking for Unjiamba, but 
did not see another Unjiamba woman, a Purula of that 
name, who was camped in the locality with a large 
Nurtiinja, round which one of the Achilpa parties danced 
when they passed by. Taking their Nurtiinja to pieces, they 
went on to Atnyra-ungwurna-munia, where they camped and 
ate Unjiamba. Thence they went to Unthipita, where they 
erected their Nurtunja again, played about, and looked for 


Unjiamba. Then they once more took their Xurtnnja to pieces 
and travelled on to the Ooraminna rock-hole, where they went 
into the earth, and two large stones arose to mark the spot 
beneath which were their Churinga. The descendant of 
Abmoara is now living, and one of the two stones is her 
Nanja. The descendant of Kuperta died recently, and it will 
be some time before she will again undergo reincarnation. 

In the following accounts, which refer to the wanderings of 
Erlia, or emu, Yarumpa, or honey-ant, and Echunpa, or 
lizard men, we omit the greater part of the details, as these 
are closely similar to those already given in the case of other 
totemic groups. 

Wanderings of the Emu Men 

These people originated at a place called Erliunpa. about 
ten miles to the east of Giles Creek, which is situated eighty 
or a hundred miles east of Alice Springs. A party of men, 
accompanied by three women, left this place, travelling nearly 
due west. They carried Nurtunjas on their heads, and their 
bodies were at first covered with feathers, which they gradu- 
ally shed along their line of route until at last they had 
all disappeared. Their first camping place was at Oniara, 
where they went into the ground. They came out at Ulpira 
and travelled to Karpirakura, a little west of Soda Creek, 
where they found a group of emu people of both sexes. 
Here they left a number of men and travelled on in a 
general westerly direction, following the trend of the main 
Macdonnell Ranges and forming totem centres at various spots 
as they went along, the exact locality of which is known to 
the natives. About fifty miles to the west of Alice Springs 
they shed their few remaining feathers, and a short distance 
beyond what is now called Glen Helen, the\' entered the 
earth and did not come out until they reached Apaura in the 
Belt Range, at the western end of the Macdonnells, where 
they found and stayed with a local group of emu men and 
women, forming there an important emu totem centre. 


Wanderings of the Honev-Ant People 

The Yarumpa or honey-ant people, who were of all classes, 
originated at a place called Ilyaba, in the Mount Hay country. 
From this spot, which is the great centre of the totem, they 
dispersed in various directions. A great Oknirabata, named 
Abmyaungwirria, started out from Ilyaba to see what the 
country out northwards was like, and, returning after many 
days, told his people that he had found another mob of 
honey-ants far away in the north-east, and that he intended 
leading a party to them. After performing a lot of ceremonies 
which the women were allowed to see, he started off with the 
party, and after finding two or three honey-ant men living in 
the scrub in various places (it may be noted that the honey- 
ant is found in mulga scrub), they came to Inkalitcha, where 
the water-hole by which they camped was dry. They suffered 
much from thirst, and so opened veins in their arms and 
drank blood, some of the old men consuming immense quan- 
tities. Then they went into the ground, and alternately 
travelling above and under ground, came to a spot on 
the Burt Plain, where it is related that they made Ilpirla. 
This is a drink made by steeping the bodies of the honey- 
ants in water, and then kneading them until the honey 
is pressed out and mixed with the water. The Ilpirla was 
mixed in the hafts of their shields. After drinking some of 
it the Oknirabata left the part)% and went on ahead to find 
the honey-ant people whom he had seen before. He found 
them at Koarpirla making an Engwura, and, returning at 
once to his party, he led them to that place. The local 
people were very angry, and refused to have anything to do with 
them, and moreover they opened veins in their arms, making 
such a flood that all the party were drowned except the 
Oknirabata who returned to Ilyaba, where finally he died. A 
black hill covered with black stones arose where the wanderers 
perished, and their Churinga are now in the store-house of 
the local group. A spring of fresh water is said to mark the 
central spot of the Engwura ground, which lies far out in 
sand-hill country, and has the natives sa}-, never been visited 
by white men. 


• Another party of honey-ant people started out west under 
the guidance of two Oknirabata. At a place called Tan- 
ulpma a large Niirtunja was erected, and here one of the 
leaders remained behind with the Niirtunja, a large gum tree 
arising to mark the spot where this stood. /\t Umpira the 
party met a hone}"-ant woman, who, like all those seen along 
the course of their travels, had a Nurtiinja and qitabara 
tindattha. When she died a large stone arose to mark the 
spot, and this is the Nanja of her living descendant. h\. 
Umpira AriltJia was performed upon some of the part}-. Then 
the}- travelled on to Lukaria, where they found a large 
number of honey-ant men and women who had many 
Niirtunjas. On seeing the strangers the women were very 
angr}-, and assumed a threatening attitude, stamping and 
beating the air with their palms extended outwards, shouting 
" Yalikapira arinilla litchila CImringa oknirra ninimja " (Stop ; 
don't advance ; we have many Churinga). The party, fright- 
ened, camped a little distance away, where they erected a 
Niirtunja and performed AriltJia. The local honey-ants did 
not come near to them. The}- travelled on westwards, camp- 
ing near Mount Heuglin and on the Dashwood Creek, and 
forming various totem centres. At a place called Amula- 
pirta the}- sta}'ed for a few hours performing Ariltha, and all 
the men had intercourse with a Panunga honey-ant woman. 

On the north side of the Belt Range they camped by 
the side of a creek, and here they erected their Niirtunja, and 
were too tired to take it up again. While travelling on they 
heard a loud arri-inkuma — a special form of shouting — and 
soon found themselves face to face with a large number of 
honey-ants at a place called Unapuna. The local people 
resented their coming, and at once drew forth floods of blood 
from their arms, with the result that all the strangers were 
drowned, their Churinga remaining behind and giving rise to 
an important Yarumpa or honey-ant totem centre. 

Wanderings of the Lizard Men 

In the Alcheringa a man of the Illunja (jew lizard) totem, 
who sprung up at Simpson's Gap at a spot high up on the 


eastern wall, now marked by a column called by white men 
the Sentinel, journeyed away underground to a place called 
Ulira, east of Arltunja, where there were a number of Echunpa 
or big lizard people, who originated there, but, unlike the 
lizards of the Simpson's Gap locality, they always fed on lizards. 
The Illunja man had brought with him a lot of Owadowa, a 
grass seed which formed the food of the Simpson's Gap lizard 
people. Some of this he consumed on the road, and the rest 
he offered to the Ulira lizard people, who declined it, so he 
placed it on the ground, a large stone now marking the spot. 

Having induced the Echunpa people to accompany him, 
they all started back for Simpson's Gap, carrying a number of 
Churinga but no Niirtiinja. On the way they ate Echunpa, 
the Illunja man joining them in doing so. Travelling west- 
ward, they camped at various places, and at one spot near to 
the Love Creek the younger men, whose duty it was to 
provide and cook the lizards for the older ones, only brought in 
a little to the old men, who were angry and called them 
Uiikirertzva, that is, greedy men, and to punish them caused 
them to become anchinya, that is, grey-haired. 

At Irulchirtna they made quabara undattJia, carrying 
Churinga on their heads, as shown during one of the Engwura 
ceremonies which represented one of those performed during 
this march. Here it was that some men of the Thippa-thippa 
(a bird totem) came and danced round them as they per- 
formed, and were afterwards changed into birds, which still 
hover over the Echunpa lizards and show the natives where 
they are to be found. Leaving Irulchirtna, they still carried 
their Churinga on their heads, and the Thippa-thippa ran 
round looking at them. At a place on the Todd River in the 
Emily Plain they stayed some time performing Tapurta, that 
is, a long series of lizard ceremonies, and then moving on a 
little further, the party was divided into two by the Illunja 
man. One lot went away south to somewhere in the region 
of Erldunda, and the other kept on a westerly course till 
Illaba, not far from the Heavitree Gap near Alice Springs, 
was reached. Here it is said that a Purula man who had a 
stumpy tail left the party, intending to go away, but changed 
his mind and returned. Then they went to what is now a 


large clay pan, called Conlon's lagoon, where Tapiirta were 
again performed. Here a thin, emaciated man was left, and 
where he died arose a stone, the rubbing of which may cause 
emaciation in other people. This stone is charged with 
Aningquiltha, or evil influence. 

At Conlon's lagoon the Illunja man left the rest and went 
on ahead to Simpson's Gap, where he wanted to muster the 
Alexandra parakeet, small rat (Untaina), and Ilura (a lizard, 
a species of Xephrurus) people. The Alexandra parakeet 
people have, since that time, been changed into the bird which 
is supposed to inhabit caves underground, out of which it 
comes every now and then in search of grass seed. 

The lizard party came on and camped at Atnakutinga near 
Attack Gap, and then proceeded to the south of Temple Bar 
Gap, and from there followed up the Ross Creek where the 
Illunja man met them. A little further on they found a 
lizard man whose descendant now lives at Alice Springs. At 
length they reached Simpson's Gap and then theydanced infront 
of the people who were assembled, and after that a long series 
of sacred ceremonies was performed. Then the Illunja man 
and one of the Echunpa returned underground to Ulirra 
where they stayed altogether. 

The lizard people left some of their party at the Gap ; 
three of them being very thin and emaciated died, and the 
stones which arose to mark the spot are charged with 
Arungquiltha. The rest of the party travelled north, still 
eating lizards, until they reached Painta Springs on the 
northern side of the Macdonnell Range and the southern edge 
of the Burt Plains. Travelling northward they passed 
Hanns' Range, and at a place called Ilangara they were too 
tired to go further and so joined the Iwutta (nail-tailed 
wallaby) people who lived there. Their Churinga were 
deposited in two spots close to the storehouse of the Iwutta. 

Thk Unthippa Women 

In dealing with the wanderings of the fourth group of the 
Achilpa people reference was made to some dancing women 
called Unthippa who were met at a place called Yapilpa. 


The women were Oriuicha, that is what is usually translated 
"devil" women, which implies that they were of an evil nature, 
alwa}s ready to annoy human beings, and endowed with 
special superhuman powers of various kinds. As explained, 
however, in the case of the Oruncha men the word " devil " 
must not be taken in the sense of their being at all the 
equivalents of malicious creatures whose one object was to 
work ill to men and women ; they are more mischievous than 
malicious, and in this instance the term " uncanny " more 
nearly expresses the idea associated with them. 

These women were supposed to have sprung into existence 
far out in the Aldorla ihinga, that is the west country, and as 
they journeyed they danced all the way along carrying shields 
and spear-throwers until they passed right through the 
country of the Arunta people. When they started they were 
half women and half men, but before they had proceeded very 
far on their journey their organs became modified and the)- 
were as other women. 

When they arrived at a place in the vicinity of Glen Helen 
they found a number of Okranina or carpet snake people who 
were assembled at an ApitUa where they were about to 
perform the rite of circumcision upon some Wiirtjas, that is 
boys who had undergone the preparatory painting and 
throwing up which form the first of the initiatory rites. Such 
women as were Unaiva to the boys took the latter on their 
shoulders and carried them along with them, leaving them at 
various spots en route, after performing lartna on them. 
Women were also left occasionally. 

Somewhere out west of the River Jay the women changed 
their language to Arunta and began feeding on mulga seed, on 
which they afterwards subsisted. Upon arrival at a place 
called Wankima, about a hundred miles further to the east, 
their sexual organs dropped out from sheer exhaustion, caused 
by their uninterrupted dancing, and it was these which gave 
rise to well-known deposits of red ochre. The women then 
entered the ground and nothing more is known of them 
except that it is supposed that a great womanland exists far 
away to the east where they finally sat down. 

The long ridge of quartzite ranges which forms a marked 


feature in the surface configuration of the country, in the 
region of the Macdonnell Ranges, and extends east and west 
for more than 200 miles, forming the southern boundary of 
the long narrow Horn or Mereenie valley, arose to mark the 
line of travel which they followed. 

The Untliippa dance, which is performed during the 
ceremonies concerned at the present time with lartna, refers to 
these women. Upon the night when the boy is taken to the 
ceremonial ground the women approach, carrying shields and 
spear-throwers, and dance as the UntJiippa women did in the 
Alcheringa, while the men sing, time after time, the refrain 
'' the range all along," referring to the march of the Untliippa 
which the women are dancing in imitation of At a later 
time also in the ceremony, after the boy has been painted and 
advanced to the grade of Wiirtja, and just before the 
performance of the actual ceremony, one of the women (not, 
however, as in the case of the Untliippa an Unaiua woman, 
but one who is Mura to the boy), placing her head between 
his legs suddenly lifts him up on her shoulders and runs off 
with him, as in the Alcheringa the Untliippa women did, but, 
unlike what happened in the past, the boy is again seized by 
the men and brought back. Whatever these remarkable 
Untliippa women may have been, the myth concerning them, 
which has evidently arisen to account for certain curious 
features in the initiation ceremonies, may be regarded as 
evidence that there was a time when women plaj'ed a more 
important part in regard to such ceremonies than they do at 
the present time. 

Tradition of Erkincha 

In the Alcheringa one of the wandering parties of Achilpa 
or wild cat men were under the guidance of an old 
Oknirabata named Atnimma-la-truripa, who was renowned for 
the size of his penis (the native word is piira, being the same 
as that for tail, kangaroo tail, for example, is okirapura). He 
was always gorgeously decorated with down, especially the 
piira. This jjart}' camped near to the waterhole at 
Ooraminna, where the\' made an Kngwura. While there they 


discovered a group of wild cat men who were suffering from 
the disease called Erkincha, or Yerakincha, and smelt most 
offensively. The southern Achilpa men had intended to 
settle here, but the presence of these men frightened them 
and they hurried away northwards. 

Shortly after the wild cat men had gone a party of men 
who belonged to the Arwarlinga (a species of Hakea) totem, 
who dwelt close by in the sand hills, came in and went to the 
top of the Ooraminna rockhole and made what is called 
abuioara — that is a favourite drink of the natives made by 
steeping Hakea flowers in water. The water was held in 
their wooden vessels, and then, opening veins in their arms, 
they allowed the blood to flow into the vessels and mix with 
the abmoara, until the vessels overflowed to such an extent 
that the Ooraminna Creek became flooded and all of the 
ErkincJia men were drowned. A stone arose at the spot 
where the diseased men perished, and since the days of the 
Alcheringa this stone has been known as Aperta atmimbira 
{apei'ta, stone ; atmimbira signifies a diseased growth issuing 
from the anus). Ever since this time the ErkincJia has been 
prevalent amongst the natives, and it is believed that old men 
visiting the stone can, by means of rubbing it and muttering a 
request to the contained ArungqiiiltJia, or evil influence, to go 
out, cause the disease to be communicated to any individual 
or even group of men whom they desire to injure.^ 

The Snake of Imyunga 

About fifty miles north-north-west of Alice Springs there is a 
gorge opening out from the northern ridge of the Macdonnell 
Range on to the Burt Plain. In the gorge is a waterfall with 
a small permanent pool at its base which is said to be 
inhabited by the spirit of a great dead snake and by some 
living snakes, the descendants of the former. The spot is 

' The disease is one which is common amongst young people, only attacking 
each individual once. It affects only the glands of the part of the body in the 
neighbourhood of the sore. At first sight it has much the appearance of being 
syphilitic in nature, but Dr. Eylmann, who has studied it, is of opinion that it is 
distinct from syphilis. It usually appears in the anal region, under the arms or 
legs, or close to the mouth. 


called Imyunga, and is in the centre of an Ingwitchika or 
grass seed localit\\ Here, in the Alcheringa, there lived a 
woman of the totem who was ver\' expert in gathering the 
grass seed on which she fed, but she suffered great anno}-ance 
and was ver\' angry because the people of the same totem 
who dwelt with her were ahva\-s stealing her grass seed, so 
she journe}-ed far awa)- to the south-west beyond Erldunda and 
brought back with her an enormous snake. She took the 
latter to her camp at Imyunga and there it ate up all the 
Ingwitchika thieves, after which it lived in the waterhole. It 
was long after the Alcheringa before it died, in fact it was seen 
by the grandfathers of some old men still living, and it was 
finally killed b\- a great flood which came down over the 
waterfall and washed it out of its hole. In the range there 
are great caverns which are occupied b}- the spirit of the 
snake. Some of its descendants are seen occasionally in the 
waterhole, to the eastern side of which no man dare go 
except at the risk of being sucked under the ranges — a fate 
which has, more than once, overtaken men who ventured too 
near, though it is a long time now since such a thing 
happened. When approaching the waterfall men always stop 
and sing out several times to give the snake warning of their 
approach, for it would make him angr\- if he were taken b\' 

Close by the waterfall is the storehouse of the local group 
in which all the Churinga are of stone. The Chiiringa nanja 
of the woman referred to is ornamented on one side only with 
a number of series of concentric circles which are supposed to 
represent her breasts, her name being Urlatcha (breasts). 

The Fire Totem 

In the Alcheringa a spark of fire {iirincJiitha) ascended into 
the sky at Urapuncha, the place of fire, which lies far away in 
the north and was blown by the north wind to a spot now 
indicated by a large mountain also called Urapuncha, or Mount 
Hay. Here it fell to earth and a great fire sprang up which 
by and by subsided, and from the ashes came out some 
Inapertwa creatures — the ancestors of the people of the fire 


totem. These Inapertzva were after a time discovered by two 
wild duck (Wungara) men who flew over from the west and 
both of whom were Bukhara, one being called Erkung-ir-quilika 
and the other Mura-wilyika. They came from Ilalil-kirika 
close to the junction of the Hugh and Jay Rivers, and made 
the Inapertiva into men and women, after which they flew 
back to their camp in the west. The remains of the great fire 
still smoulders on the top of the mountain where the sacred 
.storehouse of the totem is located, and at night time, 
especially if the night be dark and rainy, the fire can be seen 
from a long distance. Close to the storehouse is a great 
block of stone which in the Alcheringa was the piece of wood 
used by the great leader of the fire people, who was called 
Yarung-unterin-yinga, for the purpose of being rubbed by the 
amera or spear-thrower when he made fire. The aniera is 
represented in the storehouse by a Churinga. 

The Origin of Fire 

In the Alcheringa a man of the Arunga or euro totem, 
named Algurawartna, started from a place named Ililkinja 
out in the east in pursuit of a gigantic euro which carried fire 
in its body. The man carried with him two big Churinga 
with which he tried to make fire, but could not. He followed 
the euro as it travelled westwards, trying all the time to kill it. 
The man and the euro always camped a little distance away 
from one another. One night Algurawartna awoke and saw 
a fire burning by the euro ; he at once went up to it and took 
some, with which he cooked some euro flesh which he carried 
with him and upon which he fed. The euro ran away, turning 
back along its old tracks to the east. Still trying to make 
fire, but without success, the man followed until they once 
more came to Ililkinja, where at length Algurawartna 
succeeded in killing the euro with his Churinga. He 
examined the body carefully to see how the animal made 
fire, or where it came from, and pulling out the penis, which 
was of great length, he cut it open and found that it contained 
very red fire, which he took out and used to cook his euro 
with. For a long time he lived on the body of the big euro. 


and when the fire which he had taken from its body went out 
he tried fire-making {iirpJiiala) again and was successful, 
always singing the urpuiala chant : — 

" Urpmalara kaiti 
Alkna munga 
Ilpaii wila wila." 

The Orunchertwa and the Oknirabata 

In the Alcheringa a number of men belonging to the 
Unchipera (little bat) and the Erlkintera (large white bat) 
totems set out from Imanda. They were Orunchert%va,'&\2L\. is 
" devil " men, and upon arrival at a place called Etuta they 
went up into the sky, but not very high up. From this 
position they killed men who walked about on the earth 

An old Oknirabata lay down at Etuta and two boys played 
about aiming at trees with spears. These two boys heard the 
Oninchertiva sing out and were killed by them. Then the old 
Oknirabata was angry and went to his sacred storehouse 
which was close at hand, and took out a large stone Churinga ; 
sitting down he held this in both hands, and pointing it 
towards the Orunc/iertwa he brought them down to earth, and 
then with the Churinga cut them in pieces. 

Association of Birds With Particular 

Around each of the IltJiura, or sacred holes of the 
witchetty grub totem, at which a part of the Intichiiima 
ceremony is performed, there are certain stones standing on 
end which represent special birds called Chantunga. These 
birds are looked upon as the i/qiialthari, or the mates of 
the witchetty people, because in the Alcheringa certain 
witchetty maegiva, that is the fully-grown grub, changed 
into the birds. The latter abound at the time when the grub is 
plentiful and are very rarely seen at other times, and they are 
then supposed to sing joyously and to take an especial delight, 
as they hop about amongst the Udnirringa bushes all day long, 
in watching the jnaegzva laying its eggs. The witchetty men 


will not eat the bird, as they say that to do so would make 
them " atnitta takiirna irwia " (which literally means stomach, 
bad, to see) if they were to do so, and they speak affectionately 
of it. 

In the Okira or kangaroo totem the men have as ilquathari, 
grass parrots called Atnalchulpira, who in the Alcheringa 
were the Uwinna, that is the fathers' sisters, of the Okira men, 
to whom the}- brought water as the birds do at the present 
day, according to the native belief, to the kangaroos in the 
dry country, where they are always found hovering about 
these animals. Associated also with the kangaroo people are the 
birds called Kartwungawunga, who are the descendants of 
certain kangaroo men of the Alcheringa who were always killing 
and eating kangaroos and euro, and changed into the little 
birds who are often seen playing about on the backs of 
these animals. 

The x'\runga or euro people have as mates the rock pigeon 
or Inturita, who in the Alcheringa were the Uwinna of the 
euro men, whom they furnished with water just as the natives 
say that the bird now does for the animals in the dry ranges. 
The euro men have a second mate in the form of the 
Unchurunqua, a small beautifully coloured bird {Emblema 
pida), the painted finch, which in the Alcheringa was a 
euro man. In the Alcheringa these euro men are said 
to have been great eaters of euro, and their bodies were 
always drenched with blood which dripped from the bodies 
of the euros which they killed and carried with them, and 
that is why the painted finch is splashed with red. 

The Yarumpa or honey-ant people have as mates a little 
bird called Alatipa, which, like the Yarumpa liseM {Camponotus 
inflatus), only frequents mulga scrub country. They also 
have as mates another bird called Alpirtaka, which is a small 
" magpie," which also frequents mulga scrub. Both birds were 
once honey-ant people. 

The emu people have as mate the little striated wren 
{Ainytis striata), which they call Lirra-lirra ; and the 
Echunpa or big lizard people have a smaller lizard {Varanus 
pimctatus), which they call Ilchaquara. 

The Ouatcha or water people have the waterfowl as their 


mate ; and the Urliwatchera, a large lizard ( Varanus gouldii) 
people, have a small scincoid lizard called Irpanta. 

All these mates of the people of various totems are held in 
affectionate regard by those to whom they are especially 
related, but except in the case of the mates of the witchetty 
grubs there does not seem to be any restriction with regard to 
their not being eaten. Certain totems, such as the wild cat, the 
Hakea flower and the crow, are apparent!}' without any mates 
of this kind. 

In addition to these birds which are regarded as mates oi 
the members of various totems, there are others which are 
regarded as representing men of the Alcheringa of particular 
totems which became extinct. Thus the little scarlet-fronted 
Ephithanura {E. tricolor) which the natives call Xinchi-lappa- 
lappa were men who in the Alcheringa continually painted 
themselves with red ochre, until finally they changed into the 
bird. Again, in connection with the wanderings of a group of 
lizard men, we meet with a tradition which says that as they 
wandered across the country in the region of Simpson's Gap 
in the Alacdonnell Ranges they came across a group of people 
of the Atninpirichira or Princess Alexandra Parakeet totem. 
For some reason they all changed into the birds, and now they 
live far underground, only coming up at intervals near their 
old camping ground to look for grass seed on which they feed 
— an allusion probably to the fact that this particular bird has 
a strange habit of completely disappearing out of the district 
for years at a time and then suddenly appearing in large 

Associated with the lizard people is a small bird called 
Thippa-thippa. In the Alcheringa these were men of that 
totem who came and danced round the lizard people as they 
performed ceremonies, and for some reason were transformed 
into the birds, which have ever since continued to hover round 
the lizards, and by doing so often show the natives where the 
animal is to be found. In one of the ceremonies of the 
Engwura they were represented by two men who danced 
around a lizard man. 

G G 



Operation of tooth knocking out in the case of males after the performance of the 
Quatcha Jjitichiitma — Explanation of the ceremony given by the natives — 
Operation in the case of females — Throwing the tooth towards the mother's 
camp in the Alcheringa — Comparison of the ceremony with that of other 
I^arts of Australia — Nose-boring ceremony — Men painting the breasts of a 
girl with fat and red ochre after charming it — To be regarded as a ceremony 
of initiation — Customs concerned with menstruation — Drinking blood when 
starting on an avenging party — Blood-drinking at meetings of reconciliation — 
Blood-letting at sacred ceremonies — Painting the Kaitaua with blood — The 
blood after the ceremony of ^ ;-/'///; a upon a woman in the Kaitish and northern 
tribes — Deposits of red ochre associated with women's blood — Giving blood 
to men and women to strengthen them — Charming fat and red ochre and 
rubbing it over sick people — Part of the reproductive organs of an opossum 
or kangaroo used to strengthen women — Distribution of human hair — Customs 
at childbirth, making the umbilical cord into a necklet — Food restrictions — 
Totemic — The wild cat must not Ije eaten — Food killed by certain individuals- 
may not be eaten — The projecting of a mans smell into food — Men who' 
have to be supplied with food l)y any individual man belong to his wife's side 
of the tribe — Restrictions during pregnancy — Food restrictions for boys and 
girls with penalties attached — Cannibalism in the traditions — Killing and 
eating a younger child in the Lurircha tribe. 

Knocking out of Teeth 

This is a rite to which individuals of both sexes must sooner 
or later submit, if they happen to belong to one or other of 
the various groups which inhabit what is called the Kartivia 
QiiatcJia, or rain countr}-, which lies in the north-east of the 
area of the country occupied b\- the Arunta tribe. It is 
evident that the rite is one the significance of which, so far as 
this tribe is concerned, has undergone very considerable 
change in course of time. As a general rule it is performed 
before marriage, but not alwa}-s, and when not done at an 


early age, the natives give as a reason that the boy or girl was 
too frightened, an excuse which would not gain a minute's 
delay if the ceremony were one concerned with initiation, and 
that such should be made shows that the ceremon\- is not 
one to which an\' very great importance is now attached 

The operation always takes place after the U'ater 
InticJiinma ceremony has been performed, and in the case of 
a fully-grown man, it is performed on the InticJiiuma ground. 
It is impossible to find out wh}- the ceremony has become so 
especiall}' associated with the rain or water totem, though at 
the same time it must be remembered that it is performed, 
not infrequently, on men and women of other totems ; in fact 
any one, whatever his or her totem be, ma}' undergo the rite 
at pleasure, but in the case of just the one totem it is 
obligatory, or practical!}' so, though at the same time the 
non-observance of the custom would not prevent any man 
from being admitted to the secrets of the tribe, but it would 
subject him to what is most dreaded b}' the native, and that 
is the constant ridicule of the other men and women, with 
whom he is in daily contact. The explanation, evidentl}^ 
devised b}' the natives to account for the special association 
of the custom with the rain totem, is that the object of the 
rite is to produce in the face a resemblance to what the}' call 
Alailinga, which is the name applied to certain clouds, dark 
with a light margin, which are of peculiar appearance and are 
said to portend the coming of rain. There evidently was, as 
will be seen later on, a time when the ceremony had a much 
deeper meaning than it has at the present da}'. 

If the operation be performed on a man he lies down on 
his back, resting his head on the lap of a sitting man who is 
his tribal Oknia (elder brother), or else a man who is Unkiilla 
to him (mother's brother's son). The latter pinions his arms 
and then another Okilia or UnkiiUa fills his mouth with fur- 
string for the purpose, partly, the}' sa}', of absorbing the blood 
and partly of deadening the pain, and parti}' also to prevent 
the tooth from being swallowed. The same man then takes 
a piece of wood, usually the sharp hard end of a spear, in which 
there is a hole made, and, pressing it firml}- against the tooth, 
strikes it sharpl}- with a stone. When the tooth is out, he 

G c; 2 


holds it up for an instant so that it can be seen by all, and 
while uttering a peculiar, rolling, guttural sound throws it 
away as far as possible in the direction of the lilira Mia 
Alcheringa, which means the camp of the man's mother in 
the Alcheringa. The man who has been operated upon then 
gets up and picks up some boomerangs which he throws at a 
shield which has been fixed upright in the ground some little 
distance away, throwing them gently so as not to hurt the 
shield. There is no singing or demonstration of any kind, 
other than that described, but the mother of the man must 
provide an offering of iniriia, that is seed food of some kind, 
or " yams," and send it to the tribal Okilia or Unkidla who 
performed the operation, and he, in his turn, must provide an 
offering of food for the use of the man on whom he operated, 
which is a curious reversal of the usual rule, according to 
which it is necessary, in all other cases with which we are 
acquainted, for the man who has been operated upon to 
provide the operator with food.^ 

In the case of boys the operation is performed away from 
the InticJiuinia ground near to which they may not go, and 
at this ceremony women may be present, for with regard to the 
InticJmima ground the same restriction applies to them as 
to boys. The performance is carried out in the same way as 
described, and the same rules apply with regard to the offering 
of food. 

When a woman or girl is to be operated on, a little space 
is cleared near to the main camp where men and women all 
assemble, except only those who are Mtira to the girl. A tribal 
^Okilia sits down and the girl lies with her head in his lap, 
and the operation is conducted as in the case of the men and 
boys, being almost always performed by a tribal Okilia. The 
tooth when taken out is lifted up with the same guttural 
sound and thrown in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa 
camp. The girl now springs to her feet, and seizing a small 
pitchi which has been placed close at hand for the purpose, 

' Any food is given except the totemic animal or plant of the recipient. This 
may possibly be a rudimentary form of the more elaborate ceremony of food-giving 
to novices described by Mr. Howitt in connection with the Jeraeil of the Kurnai 
tribe. Journ. Anth. Inst., May 1885, p. 317. 


fills it with sand, and dancing over the cleared space agitates 

Xhe pitch i as if she were winnowing seed. When it is emptied 
she resumes her seat amongst the women. Previous to the 
operation the Okilia places in her hair a topknot of feathers of 
a cockatoo, which is returned to him later on. The girl, not 
her mother, must now provide an offering of seed food for the 
use of the operating Okilia, and he in his turn must send her 
an offering of meat. 

Amongst the Kaitish tribe the operation on men is per- 
formed b}' tribal Okilia, and on women and girls by tribal 
Ungaraitcha (elder sisters), and in both cases, just as in the 
Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, the tooth is, when extracted, thrown 
in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp. 

The existence as well as the details accompanying the 
performance of this custom in these central tribes is of con- 
siderable interest. As is well known, it forms amongst man)' 
of the eastern and south-eastern tribes of Australia the most 
important initiation ceremony, after passing through which the 
young men are admitted to the status of manhood. Amongst 
the central tribes it has no such significance, and it is not even 
of universal occurrence amongst them. At the same time, the 
ceremony which accompanies the operation ma}' in all 
probability be regarded as indicative of a time when it was 
a more important rite than it is at the present da}-. Circum- 
cision and sub-incision are amongst these tribes the initiation 
rites, and they are as characteristic in this respect of the 
central tribes as the knocking out of teeth is of certain tribes 
of the east and south-east of the continent. 

If, however, we examine more in detail the accounts of the 
ceremon)' as conducted in the Arunta and certain of the 
latter tribes, we find unmistakable points of agreement which 
are difficult to account for on an}' supposition except that the 
two have had a common origin in times past. 

Blandowski ^ in writing of certain Victorian natives, says, 
that on arriving at manhood, a youth was conducted b}' three 
leaders of the tribe into the recesses of the woods, where he 
remained two days and one night. Being furnished with a 
suitable piece of wood, he knocked out two of the front teeth 

^ Tratis. Phil. Soc. Victoria, vol. i., p. 72. 


of his upper jaw, and on returning to the camp gave them to 
his mother. Then he again returned to the woods for the 
same length of time. During his absence, his mother selected 
a young gum tree and inserted in the bark of the fork of two 
of the topmost branches the teeth which had been knocked 
out. This was ever afterwards in some sense held sacred. It 
was only known to certain persons of the tribe, and the youth 
himself was never allowed to know where his teeth had been 
placed. If the youth died, then the base of the tree was 
stripped of its bark, and it was killed by fire, so that it might 
remain as a monument of the dead man. It may be remarked, 
that it would be more likely to remain as a monument if it 
were not killed, and that probably this was not the real 
rea.son for destroying it. 

Collins,^ in an excellent account of the rite as practised 
amongst the natives of a New South Wales tribe, describes 
how a throwing stick was made, and with this the tooth was 
knocked out by means of hitting it with a stone. The last per- 
formance before the actual operation consisted in a man stand- 
ing out with a shield in one hand and a club in the other, 
" striking the shield with the club, at every third stroke the 
whole party poised and presented their spears at him, pointing 
them inwards and touching the centre of the shield. This 
concluded the ceremonies previous to the operation ; and it 
appeared significant of an exercise which was to form the 
principal business of their lives, the use of the spear." Further 
on he says, " The natives when speaking of the loss of the 
tooth always use the word yor-lahng era-ba-diahng," which 
" appears to be compounded of the name given to the spot 
where the principal scene takes place, and of the most material 
qualification that is derived from the whole ceremony, that is, 
the throwing of the spear." 

Though Collins does not state anything very definite with 
regard to whom the teeth were given, we can gather 
indirectly, but at the same time quite clearly, that they came 
into the possession of certain women. He says, " Ben-nil-long's 
sister and Da-ring-ha, Cole-be's wife, hearing the author 
express a great desire to become possessed of some of these 

1 An Account of the Euglish Colony of N.S. IV., 1804, pp. 367-373. 


teeth, procured them for him ; " and again, " one of the boys 
who had undergone the operation had formerly lived with the 
principal surgeon of the settlement till that gentleman's 
departure for England. A female relative of this boy brought 
the teeth to the author with a request that he would send 
them to Mr. White ; thus with gratitude remembering after 
the lapse of some years the attention which that gentleman 
had shown to her relative." 

In these accounts we see, certainly modified in detail but 
yet agreeing in essential points, the two significant features of 
spear-throwing and of the presenting of the teeth to some 
female relative of the person operated upon. The idea which 
<2vidently lies at the root of the ceremon}- in both the Arunta 
and Kaitish tribes on the one hand, and the Victorian and 
New South Wales tribes on the other hand, is that the 
individual operated upon has ceased to be a mere bo\- or girl 
as the case ma}- be, and has passed from the control of the 
mother into the ranks of the men or women, and the tooth is 
probably given to the mother or female relative as an indica- 
tion of this. In those tribes in which the ceremony is one of 
initiation it is not of course practised, at the present day, 
upon women, but when it ceases to be an important ceremony 
•of initiation, then the same idea is, as it were, carried over to 
the women along with the ceremony itself 

In the Central Australian tribes for example, the rite has 
■ceased to hold the importance which it still retains, or rather 
<lid until the advent of the white man and their consequent 
•extinction, amongst the tribes of the eastern coastal district. 
In the former it has given place to a new and presumably 
more recently developed form of initiation ceremony — that of 
circumcision followed by sub-incision. Whilst this change 
has been brought about, the original rite has persisted in the 
form of what we have before spoken of as a rudimentary 
-custom, and, losing its original significance, as applied to men 
•only, has been extended, so that now it is common to both 
sexes. In its earlier form, the tooth when extracted is given 
to the mother, or at least judging from CoUins's account) to 
some female relative. In its rudimentary state, as in the 
Arunta tribe, we find that the tooth is thrown in the direction 


of the camp of the Alcheringa mother, which ma\- perhaps be 
explained as indicating that in the Alcheringa, or rather the 
early times to which this name is given, the mother was 
entitled to the tooth. The nati\es can, as might have been 
expected, give no reason for the custom, and the performance 
of this is certainly not now associated with the idea of showing 
to an}- living woman that the bo\- has passed out of her control, 
this idea being, as we have alread}' seen, expressed in one of 
the ceremonies connected with initiation, as now practised. 

Of equal interest with the disposal of the tooth is the 
curious custom in the Arunta of the erection of a shield 
at which the man who has been operated upon throws 
boomerangs, but without hurting it. This is clearl)- the 
equivalent of the gentle striking of the shield b)- the spears in 
the New South Wales tribe, as described b)- Collins. In the 
one case the men assembled touch the shield with their spears, 
in the other the man who has been operated upon throws 
boomerangs at it, but in both we have the fundamental idea 
represented that the individual passing through the ceremon}' 
has arrived at the age of manhood when he ma}- use the 
weapons b}' which the men both defend themselves and secure 
their pre}-. 

In the Arunta and Kaitish tribe we find, when the rite is 
extended to include women as well as men, that the same 
two fundamental ideas are expressed. The tooth is thrown 
in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, a feature 
carried over from the man's to the woman's ceremou}-, and 
secondl}-, we have the curious ceremon}- of the empt}-ing of 
\\\Q pitchi which the girl carries on her head, and which ma}- 
be regarded as indicative of the fact that she has reached the 
age when she can enter upon the duties of a woman, not the 
least important of which is s}-mbolised b}- the pitcJii filled 
with food, gathered in the bush, which she carries dail}' poised 
on the top of her head. 

It can scarcel}- be doubted that there is a common origin 
for these customs in the central and coastal tribes — the details 
of agreement just referred to are, it seems to us, inexplicable 
except on this h}-pothesis. This would seem to impl}% 
inasmuch as in one group of tribes we find tooth extraction 


the important ceremony, with no trace of the form of ceremonies 
(circumcision, &c.) practised in the other group, whilst in the 
latter, side b\- side with the present initiation rite, we find 
tooth extraction in the form of a rudimentary custom, that 
the more ancient ceremony is that of tooth extraction. 

We have spoken hitherto as if it might be almost taken for 
granted that the latter rite was in all cases originally 
restricted to men, and that when, as in the central tribes, we 
find it practised b}- both sexes, it is to be regarded as a 
custom which, losing its sacred significance, was, as it were, 
passed on to the women, who then shared in it equally with 
the men. We do not in realit\', b}- an}- means, desire to implj- 
that this was of necessit}- the case. Into the question of 
what was the origin of the custom it seems hopeless to 
inquire. \\ hether it alwa}-s had a sacred significance as it 
has at the present day, or whether it is a custom to which in 
course of time the present sacred nature as an initiation 
ceremony became, as it were, tacked on to its previous 
attributes, is a problem which will probably never be settled. 
What we wish to draw attention to now is the fact that in the 
traditions of the Arunta tribe we have, so far as they are 
worth an}-thing as evidence in this direction, the clearest 
possible indication of a past time when the things now- 
regarded as so sacred that if seen bj- a woman she would be 
put to death, were not thus tabu to women. In tradition 
after tradition we have accounts set out in great detail of how- 
particular women of the Alcheringa carried the sacred 
Niirtiinja just as the men did, and of how they had Churinga 
just as the men had, and further, of how they performed sacred 
ceremonies exactl)- as the men did. It can scarcely be held that 
these traditions are merely fanciful creations of the men ; if 
so it is a curious feature that the}' have been built up amongst 
a people to whose ideas of the fitness of things as the}- are 
now and probably have been for some time past, any such 
acquaintance of the women with the sacred objects is utterl}- 
foreign. It seems more probable that the traditions do 
really indicate the former existence of a time when, in this 
respect, men and women were upon terms of greater equalit}- 
than thev arc now. This beincr so it will be seen that it is at 


all events unsafe to take for granted that even as a rite of 
initiation the knocking out of teeth has always been confined 
to men. There are, it appears to us, two theories, in favour of 
either of which many arguments might be adduced. 
According to the first of these the knocking out of teeth 
may be regarded from the very first as a sacred rite of 
initiation confined to the men ; in those tribes in which it 
has remained as the rite of initiation it has always been 
so confined to the men, while in others it has been super- 
seded by more elaborate rites and has been passed on to 
the women when once its sacred character was lost. A 
second theory would regard the custom of knocking out of 
teeth as, at first, unconnected with any rite of initiation, and as 
practised by both men and women. Starting from this basis 
the customs, as we find them now developed, may be supposed 
to have followed one or other of two lines. Along the first, 
for some unknown reason, the rite came to be associated with 
initiation to, in the early days, both manhood and woman- 
hood. After a time (and as pointed out it seems certain that 
changes in this direction have taken place; the rite came to 
be confined to men, and dropped out so far as women were 
concerned until, as in the eastern and south-eastern parts, it 
came to be a sacred ceremony confined to the men. Along 
the second line the rite came also to be associated with 
initiation both to manhood and womanhood, but its place, for 
some also unknown reason, came to be taken by a quite 
different ceremony in the case both of men and of women ; for 
it must be remembered that in the tribes of the Centre the 
women have initiation rites just as the men have, only that 
the same sacredness is not attached to them as to those 
•of the men. With the introduction of the new rites the 
old one of knocking out of a tooth lost its original significance 
and persisted as a rudimentary custom, the relationship of 
it to the same custom, still practised as an initiation rite in 
other tribes, being unmistakably shown by a remarkable 
similarity in the details of the ceremony as performed 
in the different tribes. 


Ceremony of Nose Boring 

In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes when a boy's nose has 
been bored, that is as soon as the operation has been 
completed, he strips a piece of bark off a gum tree, if 
possible, and throws it as far as he can in the direction 
of the Alcheringa camp of his mother, that is where the spirit 
individual of which his mother is the reincarnation lived 
in the Alcheringa. This little ceremony is called ilyabara 
izviuna or the bark-throwing, and the boy is told to do it 
by men who stand to him in the relation of Antiiga, 
Oknia, and Okilia, who also tell him that the reason for 
doing it is that it will lessen the pain and promote the 
healing of the wound. When the nose of a girl is bored, 
which is usually by her husband very soon after she has 
passed into his possession, she fills a small wooden vessel 
with sand, and facing in the direction of the Alcheringa 
camp of her mother, executes a series of short jumps, keeping 
her feet close together and her legs stiff, while she makes 
the pitchi move as if she were winnowing seed until she 
gradually empties it, after which she simply resumes her 
ordinary occupation. Neglect to perform this ceremony 
would, so say the natives in explanation of it, be regarded 
as a grave offence afjainst her mother. 

Promoting the Growth of the Breasts 

To promote the growth of the breasts of a girl, the men 
assemble at the Ungiinja or men's camp, where they all join in 
singing long chants, the words of which express an exhortation 
to the breasts to grow, and others which have the effect of 
charming some fat and red ochre which men who are Gaiiiinona, 
that is, brothers of her mother, have brought to the spot, as well 
as head and arm bands of fur-string. These men belong to 
the other moiety of the tribe to that to which the girl belongs; 
if she, for example, be a Panunga, then they will be Kumara. 
At daylight one of them goes out and calls her to a 
spot close to the Cnguiija, to which she comes accompanied 


by her mother. Here her bod}- is rubbed all over with 
fat by the Gamniona men, who then paint a series of 
straight lines of red ochre down her back and also down 
the centre of her chest and stomach. xA wide circle is 
painted round each nipple and straight lines below each 
of these circles. Long strings of opossum fur-string are 
passed across each shoulder and under each arm-pit ; numbers 
of neck-rings are put round her neck, several head-rings are 
placed on her forehead, and a number of tail tips are fixed so 
that they droop down over the forehead and ears. All these 
things have been charmed b}- the Gannnona singing over 

When this has been done the girl is taken out into the 
bush by her mother, who makes a camp there at some 
distance from the main one, and here the girl must sta)- until 
the ilkinia or lines on her bod}- wear off, when, but not until 
when, she may return to the main camp. The girl wears the 
charmed necklets and head-rings until one b}' one they drop 
off and become worn out. As we have pointed out previously, 
this is to be regarded as a form of initiation ceremony con- 
cerned with women, ^ and may be looked upon as the 
equivalent of the first ceremon}- of throwing up and painting 
the bo}'. 

Various Customs concerned with Blood, Blood- 
letting, AND Blood-Giving, &c. 

In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes a girl at the first time of 
menstruation is taken by her mother to a spot close to, but 
apart from, the Erlukwirra or women's camp, near to which 
no man ever goes. A fire is made and a camp formed by the 
mother, the girl being told to dig a hole about a foot or 
eighteen inches deep, over which she sits attended by her own 
and some other tribal Mia, who provide her with food, one or 
other of them being al\va}-s with her, and sleeping b}- her side 

^ In the tribes dealt \s ilh by Roth there does not appear to be the equivalent 
of this ceremony, what he describes as the first initiation ceremony of women 
being that of introcision, the equivalent of \.\\eAnlt/ia kmna ceremony amongst 
the central tribes, op. cit., p. 174. 


at night time. No children of either sex are allowed to go 
near to her or to speak to her. During the first two days 
she is supposed to sit over the hole without stirring away ; 
after that she may be taken out by one or other of the old 
women hunting for food. When the flow ceases she is told 
to fill in the hole. She now becomes what is called Wliiipa, 
returns to the women's camp, and shortly afterwards undergoes 
the rite of Atna-ariltJia, and is handed over to the man to 
whom she has been allotted. She remains Wnnpa until such 
time as her breasts assume the pendent form so characteristic 
of the native women who have borne one or more children, 
after which she is spoken of as Ayakiitja,\\\Q name for a fully- 
grown woman. 

Blood may be given by young men to old men of any 
degree of relationship and at any time with a view to 
strengthening the latter. When it is given to a man of the 
same moiety of the tribe as the donor it is drawn from a vein in 
the middle of the arm, and when to a man of the other moiety, 
it must be taken from a vein at the inner side of the arm. 
Occasionally it is drawn from the back of the hand, and 
still more rarely by the painful process of deeply puncturing 
the finger tips under the nail. 

When starting on an avenging expedition or Atiiinga 
every man of the party drinks some blood, and also has some 
spurted over his body, so as to make him what is called 
uchuilivia, that is, lithe and active. The elder men indicate 
from whom the blood is to be drawn, and the men so selected 
must not decline, though the amount drawn from a single 
individual is often very great ; indeed, we have known of 
a case in which blood was taken from a young and strong 
man until he dropped down from sheer exhaustion. 

In addition to the idea of strengthening the recipient, there 
is the further important belief that this partaking together of 
blood prevents the possibility of treachery. If, for example, 
an Alice Springs party wanted to go on an avenging expedi- 
tion to the Burt country, and they had with them in camp a 
man of that locality, he would be forced to drink blood with 
them, and, having partaken of it, would be bound not to aid 
his friends by giving them warning of their danger. If he 


refused to drink the blood, then, as actually happened in one 
case known to the authors, his mouth would be forced open 
and blood poured into it, which would have just the same 
binding influence as if the drinking had been a voluntary 

Blood-drinking is also associated with special meetings 
of reconciliation which sometimes take place between two 
groups who have been on bad terms with one another with- 
out actually coming to a fight. In this instance the group 
which is supposed to have suffered the injury sends a 
messenger to the old men of the offending group, who says, 
" Our people want }'ou to come and have a friendly fight."^ 
This peculiar form of meeting is called Umbirna iliriniay 
which means "seeing and settling (things)." If the ofifending^ 
group be willing, which they are almost sure to be, then the 
meeting is held, and at the commencement each party drinks 
the blood of its own members, and a more or less sham 
fight takes place with boomerangs, no one being an}' the 

When a }'oung man for the first time takes blood from 
another man, the latter becomes for a time tabu to him until 
he chooses to release the young man from the intJierta, or ban 
of silence, by singing over his mouth. 

Apart from these special occasions, blood is not in- 
frequentl)' used to assuage thirst and hunger ; indeed, when 
under ordinary circumstances a blackfellow is badl}- in want 
of water, what he does is to open a vein in his arm and drink 
the blood. 

Blood-letting is a prominent feature of certain sacred 
ceremonies, such as the Intichiiima rite, as practised by the 
kangaroo men at Undiara, the great centre of their totem, 
where the young men open veins in their arms and allow the 
blood to stream out on to, and over, the edge of the sacred 
ceremonial stone which represents the spot where a celebrated 
kangaroo of the Alcheringa went down into the earth, its 
spirit part remaining in the stone which arose to mark the 
place. In the same way at the InticJiimna of the Unjiamba 
or Hakea flower totem held at Ilyaba, blood from the arm is 
sprinkled over the stone which represents a mass of Unjiamba. 


The sacred pole called the Kauaiia, which is erected at the 
close of the Engwura ceremoti)-. is painted all over with 
blood, and, in all sacred ceremonies, in fact, in many of the 
ordinar\- corrobborees down derived from either birds or plants 
is attached to the human bod\- b\- blood drawn either from the 
arm or the subincised urethra. 

Women are never allowed to witness the drawing of blood 
for decorative purposes ; indeed, the feeling with regard to 
women seeing men's blood is such that when a quarrel takes 
place and blood is shed in the presence of women, it is usual 
for the man whose blood is first shed to perform a ceremony 
connected with his own or his father or mother's totem. This 
is in some manner supposed to be by way of reconciliation,, 
and to prevent the continuance of ill-feeling. The special 
term given to these ceremonies is A/ua nparilima, which 
means " the blood fading away." After a fight which took 
place recently, one of these ceremonies was performed 
b\- an Apungerta man of the witchetty grub totem. He perso- 
nated a Chankuna (small berry) woman, to which totem his 
mother belonged, and was decorated with an elaborate head- 
dress representing the woman's digging-sticks, to which were 
afifixed pendent bunches of feathers representing Chankuna 
bushes with the berries on them, which the woman was 

There are also various customs relating to the blood of 
women which may be referred to here. 

In the Kaitish and other northern tribes, when the rite of 
Atna ariltha ktana is performed on a young woman by an 
Ungaraitcha or elder sister, the blood is collected in a special 
pitclii which is made for the purpose b)^ an elder brother of 
the woman, and is taken to the camp, where the JZ/Vr, Uwinna, 
and other women both smear their bodies with it and drink 
some. It has been already described, in the account of the 
initiation ceremonies, that the blood which flows at the opera- 
tion of lartna on a boy is taken to the women's camp and 
rubbed over the breasts and foreheads of women who are the 
elder sisters of the boy and of his mother. 

The deposits of red ochre which are found in various parts 
are associated with women's blood. Near to Stuart's Hole, on 


the Finke River, there is a red ochre pit which has evidently 
been used for a long time ; and tradition says that in the 
Alcheringa two kangaroo women came from Ilpilla, and at 
this spot caused blood to flow from the vulva in large 
quantities, and so formed the deposit of red ochre. Travelling 
away westward they did the same thing in other places. In 
much the same way it is related of the dancing UntJiippa 
women that, at a place called Wankima, in the eastern part 
•of the Arunta district, they were so exhausted with dancing 
that their organs fell out, and gave rise to the large deposits 
■of red ochre found there. 

Blood is occasionally given to both men and women to 
strengthen them when they are ill. When given to a man — 
and it is only given in very serious cases — it is drawn from the 
labia minora, and one of the women, taking first of all one 
of the several kinds of witchetty grubs which are eaten, dips 
this in the blood and gives it to the man to eat, after which 
his body is rubbed over with the blood and afterwards with 
grease and red ochre. When a woman is very ill and weak, 
one of her male Umba, to whom she is Mia alkulla, that is, he 
is the son of one of her younger sisters, may volunteer to 
strengthen her with his blood, in which case all the women 
and children are sent away from her. The man draws a 
quantity of blood from the subincised urethra, and she drinks 
part of it while he rubs the remainder over her body, adding 
afterwards a coating of red ochre and grease. If the woman 
recovers, she must not speak to the man, or to the men who 
accompany him, until such time as she has sent to him an 
offering of food. In all cases when a man or woman feels 
ill, the first thing that is done is to rub red ochre over 
the body, which may possibly be regarded in the light of 
a substitute for blood, just as sometimes a ceremonial object 
may be rubbed over with red ochre instead of blood. 

We may mention here also certain customs, which are 
concerned with the curing or strengthening of weak men and 

In some cases of serious illness women will charm by 
" singing " it a mixture of fat and red ochre, which they rub 
into the body of the sick man, all classes taking part in the 


operation. If the man recovers he must not speak to any 
of the women, except his own Unazva, who took part in the 
ceremony, until after such time as he has made them an offer- 
ing of meat. When this is done, the women assemble at some 
little distance from the Erliikivirra or women's camp, while 
the man, accompanied by his- own and tribal Okilia (elder 
brothers) and OJsnia (fathers), carries the meat, which is most 
likely kangaroo or euro flesh, and silently places it in front of 
the women, who then rub him over with red ochre, thus re- 
moving the ban of silence. The men and women then return 
to their respective camps, and the meat is cooked and eaten 
at the women's camp. 

In the northern and western Arunta and in the Ilpirra 
tribe, for the purpose of strengthening a delicate woman, a 
part of the internal reproductive organs (called ertoacha) is 
taken from a male opossum, wallaby, euro, or kangaroo. The 
woman lies down on her back, and her husband placing the 
ertoacha upon the mons veneris, "sings" over it for some time 
after which the woman swallows it whole. 

In some cases the same part of the animal is taken by the 
man and half cooked, after which he coats it with grease, 
charms it by singing over it, and then presents it to his 
wife ; she has to swallow it whole without having any idea 
of the nature of the object, which, in this case, is given for 
the purpose of promoting sexual desire. For the same 
purpose fluid material from the ertoacha may be squeezed 
into the vulva. 

Customs concerned with Hair 

A man's hair always goes to some one who is either 
Ikiintcra or Umbirna to him. Supposing a man has three 
sons, then each of them is made son-in-law to some special 
man whom he calls Ikuntera-tualcha. The latter has the first 
claim to the younger man's hair. Any which there may be 
to spare goes to the son of an Ikuntcra, that is to a man who 
is Umbirna of the donor. In this way a man receives hair 
from (i) his actual mother-in-law (his principal supply), (2) 
from a Gammona or son-in-law, (3) from an Umbirna or 

H H 


brother-in law, while (4) under certain circumstances, already 
described, he receives a special supply from a particular 
Umbirna to whom he stands in the relationship of Ungipinna. 
In addition to these, which may be called his normal sources 
of supply, he will sometimes receive hair-string as a return for 
some favour rendered. For example, a man who belongs to 
a different totem from his father inherits the Churinga of the 
latter, but they still remain in the store-house of the father's 
local totemic group. A suitable present of such a valuable 
article as hair-string will often persuade the head man of the 
father's group to allow the son to remove, for a time, the 
Churinga of the former to the store-house in v/hich his, i.e. the 
son's, Churinga is kept. 

A man when cutting or having his hair cut, which he must 
do periodically, as it is his duty to present it to certain in- 
dividuals, alwa}-s squats facing the direction of the Alcheringa 
camp of his mother. If he fails to do this some great calamit}' 
will befall him. 

At the close of the initiation ceremony of AriltJia, in the 
case of the Northern Arunta, the elder sisters of the boy 
cut off a {&\\ locks of his hair, which they keep for themselves. 

The distribution of a dead man's hair has been already 
alluded to, as well as the fact that in these tribes the remark- 
able customs according to which a man's hair must be given 
to certain individuals have of necessity prevented the existence 
of the feeling, so strongly developed amongst many other 
Australian tribes, that on no account must a stranger be 
allowed to secure even the smallest fragment of hair. 

Custom at Child Birth 

When a child is born, the fact is notified to the father b\- 
his actual or a tribal Mia. 

Before the child is born, the woman goes to the Erliikwirra 
or women's camp. If there be any difficulty in childbirth 
the husband, who is at his own camp, without saying anything 
strips off all his personal adornments, and empties his bag or 
wallet of knick-knacks on to the ground. Then a man who 
is Miira to him, without in any way referring to the matter. 


takes the hair-girdle, and proceeding to the Erhikwirra, near 
to which as a general rule no man may go, ties it tightly 
round the woman's bod}- just under the breasts, and then 
returns to the husband's camp. Xot a word is spoken, but 
if after a time the birth of the child is not announced, the 
husband, still quite unadorned, walks once or twice slowl}-, at 
a distance of about fift}' yards, up and down past the Erhik- 
ivirra with a view to inducing the unborn child to follow him, 
which it is said rarely to fail to do. 

After birth the umbilical cord is cut with a stone knife, or 
sometimes with the pointed end of a digging-stick at a dis- 
tance of some inches from the body of the child. There is no 
ligature, but the cut end is frequently dressed with hot ashes. 
The afterbirth is burnt. x\fter a few days the attached part 
of the cord is cut off by the mother, who by swathing it in 
fur-string makes it into a necklace called Akurlaitcha, which 
is placed round the child's neck. The necklace is supposed 
to facilitate the growth of the child, to keep it quiet and con- 
tented, to avert illness generally, and it also has the faculty of 
deadening to the child the noise of the barking of the camp 

The painting of a black line over the eyebrow in imita- 
tion of the mark on the EratJiippa stone has alread}- been 
alluded to. 

Food Restrictions 

In the Urabunna tribe, as in the great majority of Australian 
tribes with regard to which we have information relating to 
their totemic systems, each individual is strictly forbidden to 
eat the animal or plant, the name of which he bears, as that of 
his totem. That is, for example, an emu man or woman 
must not in any way injure an emu, nor must he partake of 
its flesh even when he has not killed it himself 

The exact restrictions vary, however, to a certain extent in 
different tribes, in some apparently, such as the Urabunna, it 
applies at all times, in others, as described by Sir George 
Grey in the case of certain West Australian natives, the rule 
is observed at some but not at all times. Thus he says,^ " a 

' Expedition in North IFest and Western Australia, 1841, vol. ii., p. 228. 

H H 2 


certain mysterious connection exists between a family and its 
kobong, so that a member of the family will never kill an 
animal of the species to which his kobojig belongs ; should he 
find it asleep, indeed he kills it reluctantly, and never without 
affording it a chance of escape. This arises from the family 
belief that some one individual of the species is their nearest 
friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and carefully to 
be avoided. Similarly, a native who has a vegetable for his 
kobong, may not gather it under certain circumstances, and at 
particular times of the year." 

In the Arunta and other Central Australian tribes, restric- 
tions as to not eating the animal or plant because it bears the 
name of the individual's totem may be said to agree in actual 
practice with those just described with, however, this 
difference, that the Arunta native does not imagine that the 
animal or plant, or some particular one of the species, is his 
nearest friend. A man will eat only very sparingly of his 
totem, though there are certain special occasions on which, as 
a sacred ceremony, he partakes of his totemic animal or plant. 

To this reference has been made elsewhere,^ meanwhile it 
maybe said here that, in broad outline, the Central Australian 
agree with the majority of Australian tribes in the general 
restriction according to which the totem is tabooed. That this 
has not, however, always been the case appears to be indicated 
by certain traditions in which we see very distinct references to 
the eating of the totem by the members, in fact the latter are re- 
presented as having a kind of prior claim to it for this purpose. 

The only case in which there is any general restriction 
applying to the eating of an animal is in regard to the 
Achilpa, or " wild cat," but in this instance there is something 
of a very special nature, as the restriction not only applies to 
members of the Achilpa totem but extends to every member 
of the tribe except the oldest men and women. 

Apart from restrictions concerned with the totems, there 
are others which relate on the one hand to food which has 
been killed by special individuals, and on the other to food 
which may not be eaten by particular individuals at certain 
times of their lives. 

^ Chapter VI. 


Under the first series of restrictions we find that a man 
may not eat the flesh of any animal which has been caught 
and killed, or even handled, b\- his Ikiintera (father-in-law), 
Umba (children of his sisters), female Miira and Ipmiuma, 
nor by the man who is the father of his mother-in-law. On 
the contrary he must share his food with his Ikiintera or 
actual and tribal fathers-in-law, and it is his duty on killing 
game to ascertain if any of them are in want of food. As 
a matter of practice a man will never go out hunting with 
either his Ihintera or Umba men, as they will appropriate 
ever}-thing which he kills while he is with them, so that 
he takes care to keep out of their way as much as possible. 
In the distribution of food he gives a portion first to his 
Ikiintera, then after feeding himself and his own Unatva 
and children, he gives any which he does not require to 
his Umba, and after that to his Mura and Ipmwina women. 
It may be added that this giving away of food according to 
well-established rules is not a custom more honoured in the 
breach than the observance, but is actually carried out. The 
Australian native cannot be accused of a lack of generosit}' ; 
what he has he distributes freely to those to whom tribal 
custom tells him that he ought to, and, it may be added, that 
he obeys to the letter the injunction of taking no heed for the 

Not only must a man supply the individuals named with 
food, but he must also take care that, when he is eating, none 
of them is sufficiently near to distinguish what he is eating, 
lest they should spoil it by what is called Equilla timma, 
which means " projecting their smell into it." Should a man 
eat meat which has been killed or seen by any of these 
persons, the food would disagree with him, and he would 
sicken and suffer severely, a belief which has the result of 
securing the obser\'ance of the custom. 

If we take the case of a particular man, say a Panunga, and 
refer to the table already given, it can be seen at a glance 
what are the classes to which the individuals concerned with 
this restriction belong. They are Kumara men and women. 
Bukhara women, Uknaria women, together with the Uknaria 
man who is the father of the man's actual mother-in-law. 


The association in this respect is clearly that between a man 
and, what we may call, his wife's side of the tribe, and it is 
somewhat instructive to note that in the Arunta and other 
Central Australian tribes, in which descent is counted in the 
male line, a man continues, as it were, to pay a kind of tribute 
to his wife's group during his lifetime, which may perhaps 
be regarded as an early form of what obtains in so many 
other tribes under the different custom of paying, as it were, a 
lump sum down at the time of marriage. 

This is, further, the one important feature, so far as the 
Arunta and other tribes akin to it are concerned, which 
appears to indicate in any way a former condition in which a 
man owed allegiance to the group of his wife ; in no 
Australian tribe, so far as we know, is it the custom for a 
man to take up his abode with the family of his wife and to 
work for them, but in this custom we see, clearly expressed, 
the idea that a man owes something to the group from which 
his wife comes. 

The second class of restriction is of an entirely different 
nature, and is associated with the idea, firstly, of reserving the 
best things for the older people, secondly, of reserving certain 
things for the men as opposed to the women, while, thirdly, 
there are restrictions which deal with the food of individuals 
at particular times. 

We may take the third series first. When a youth is 
circumcised, and until he has undergone and recovered entirely 
from the rite of ariltJia or sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat 
of the flesh of a number of animals ; if he were to transgress 
this rule then his recovery would be retarded and his wounds 
would become much inflamed. The forbidden animals are — 
snakes, opossums, echidna, all kinds of lizards, mound birds 
or their eggs, bandicoots, wild turkey and their eggs, eagle- 
hawks and their eggs. The idea underlying this is evidently 
that of disciplining the novice, in just the same way as, 
during the Engwura, the younger men are not allowed to eat 
much food of any kind, but have to bring in the greater part 
of any game which they may secure and present it to the older 
men who remain in camp. 

There are certain restrictions as to food connected with the 


early stages of pregnancy. A woman may, if she likes to do 
so, eat meat, but the unborn child is supposed to resent this 
by causing sickness, and therefore the woman at first only 
eats vegetable food. Further still, during the first three or 
four m.onths, the husband does not kill any large game 
necessitating the use of spear or boomerang, but only catches 
rats, opossums and other small game. It is supposed that the 
spirit of the unborn child follows him about and gives warning 
of his approach to large game. Should the man attempt to 
throw a spear or boomerang at any animal, then the spirit 
child will cause the weapon to take a crooked course, and the 
man will know that he has lost his skill in the chase and that 
the child is angry with him. If, however, despite this warning, 
the father persists in trying to kill large game, then the 
sickness and sufferings of the mother would be very largely 
increased. There is, however,- nothing to prevent the man 
from eating game which has been killed by other men. The 
natives can offer no explanation of this custom, and it may 
be pointed out that the restriction with regard to killing game 
does not appear to have the slightest reference to anything 
which has to do with the totems. 

The list of foods which an Ulpmerka, that is a bo\' who 
has not been circumcised, may not eat is of considerable 
length. We append it with the list of penalties following on 
transgression of the rules. The idea throughout is evidently 
that which obtains so largely in savage tribes of reserving the 
best things for the use of the elders, and, more especiall}-, of 
the elder men. The forbidden foods are as follows : — 

Kangaroo tail {Okirra purra) ; penalty, premature age and 

Wild turkey and its eggs {Ertiia) ; penalt}-, premature age. 
Female bandicoot {Quirm) ; penalty, probably bleed to 
death at circumcision. 

Large lizards {Ilchaqiiarra or ParcntJiie) ; penalty, become 
Arro-iwajna, that is, one with an abnormal and diseased 
craving for sexual intercourse, an individual held in much 

Emu fat {Erlia inga) ; penalty, abnormal development of 
the penis. 


All kinds of parrots and cockatoos ; penalty, development 
of a hollow on the top of the head and of a hole in the chin. 

Large quail ( Tulkara) and its eggs ; penalty, non-growth of 
beard and whiskers and general stoppage of growth. 

Eagle-hawk {Irritcha), except the legs ; penalty, premature 
age and leanness ; the leg is supposed to impart strength and 
general!}' to improve the growth of the limb. Boys are often 
struck on the calf of the leg with the leg bone of an eagle- 
hawk, as thereby strength passes from the bone into the 
boy's leg. 

Wild-cat {Ackilpa) ; penalty, painful and foul-smelling 
eruption on head and neck. This restriction applies until 
very old age is reached. 

Podargus {Aiiramga) and its eggs ; penalt)', an ugl)- en- 
largement of the mouth. 

The following restrictions and penalties concern girls and 
young women until after they have had a child, or until their 
breasts begin to be pendent, in the characteristic way of the 
native women. They may not eat : — 

Female bandicoot {Qitirra) ; penalty, continual flow of the 

Large lizards ; penalty, become Arro-iwaina, that is, one 
with an abnormal craving for sexual intercourse ; such a 
woman would be alwa}'s tempting men irrespective of tribal 
laws with regard to class, and would thus, sooner or later, 
meet with severe punishment, probably with death. 

Large quail and its eggs ; penalty, non-development of the 

Wild-cat {Achilpa) ; penalty, the same as in the case of the 

Kangaroo tail {Okirra pura) ; penalty, premature age, bald- 
ness, non-development of the breasts. 

Emu fat ; penalty, malformation of the vulva. 

Cockatoos and parrots of all kinds ; penalt}-, development 
of a hollow on the top of the head, and of a hole in the chin. 

Echidna {Inarlhiga) ; penalt}', general malformation of the 
genital organs. 

Brown hawk {Hieracidea orientalis, native name Irkalanjd) ; 
penalty, absence of milk from the breasts, which will also 


swell until they burst. .Young women are only allowed to 
eat the young nestlings. The customs connected with this 
particular bird are curious. Not only is it ekirinja or forbidden 
to the young women,- but, if one of them be suckling a child and 
she sees one of these birds, she at once makes haste to turn 
so that her breast cannot be seen by the bird, because, if the 
bird should catch sight of it, or worse still, if its shadow were 
to fall on it, then the milk would fail and the breast would 
swell and burst. The women also believe that if they eat the 
old birds their sons will be afflicted with varicose veins 
{nlurkna) on the forehead, causing much disfigurement. 

While the Arrakiirta is out in the bush the actual Mia, 
that is, his mother, may not eat opossum, large carpet snake, 
large lizard, and fat of any sort, or else she would retard 
her son's recover}'. 

A curious restriction applying to women during the time of 
pregnancy, and also during the menstrual period, is that they 
may not, during the continuance of either of these, gather 
Irriakiira, the bulb which forms, together with Munyeru 
{^Portnlaca sp.), a staple vegetable food ; the breaking of this 
rule would result in the failure of the supply of In-iakura. 
With this exception, there are no restrictions with regard to 
vegetable food, except in the case of individuals whose totem 
is one of them. 


There is very clear evidence that during a former stage 
cannibalism was a well-recognised custom. We have alread}' 
described certain ceremonies performed at the Engwura 
which can only be regarded as pointing back to the existence 
of a different state of affairs from that which now obtains. For 
example, in the Qiiabarra Ingwiiriiinga inkinja} two men had 
their bodies decorated with circles of white down which were 
supposed to represent the skulls of slain and eaten men. The 
performers themselves represented the UltJiana or spirits of 
the dead men wandering about in search of those who had 
killed and eaten them. In another ceremony two Achilpa 
men were engaged in cooking the body of a third ; in another, 

^ Ingwiirninga means bones ; inkin>a, arisen. 


The object worn on the head of the standing man is supposed to represent the 
dead body of a man who is to he eaten. It is called Atniita, or limp. 


concerned with the white bat totem, one of the performers 
carried on his head an object representing a limp, dead body ; 
and in the traditions deaHng with the wanderings of the wild 
dogs, the men are continually referred to as killing and eating 
other wild dog men and women. 

These ceremonies may be regarded as probably indicative 
of what took place in past times amongst the ancestors of the 
present Arunta tribe, and of what still takes place amongst 
the Luritcha tribe where enemies are eaten. Care is always 
taken at the present day, amongst the latter, to destroy the 
bones, as the natives believe that unless this is done the 
victims will arise from the coming together of the bones, and 
will follow and harm those who have killed and eaten them. 
It is regarded as especially essential to destroy the skull — an 
existing belief which may be compared with the tradition 
referring to the early lizard man, whose head was not destroyed, 
and who therefore came to life again when his brother spoke 
to the head. 

In the Luritcha tribe also young children are sometimes 
killed and eaten, and it is not an infrequent custom, when a 
child is in weak health, to kill a younger and healthy one and 
then to feed the weakling on its flesh, the idea being that this 
will give to the weak child the strength of the stronger one. 

As usual, in regard to customs such as this, it is by no 
means easy to find out exactly what takes place, as the natives 
of one part of the country will assure you that they do not 
indulge in the habit, but that they know that those of other 
parts do. When the accused are questioned, they in turn 
lay the same charge against their accusers and so on, often 
from group to group. 



No idea of natural death — Death of one individual must be avenged in the normal 
condition of the tribe by the death of another — Organisation of a Kurdaitcha 
party — The ceremony of dislocating a toe before a man becomes entitled to 
wear the so-called Kurdaitcha shoes — The Kurdaitcha man accompanied by 
a Medicine man — Decoration of the two men — Killing the victim and 
operations of the Medicine man — Another form in which the Kurdaitcha man 
goes alone — The shoes do not serve to hide the tracks, and can only prevent 
who made them from being known — The Illapurinja — A form of female 
Kurdaitcha — The decoration of the woman — How the enemy is killed — Object 
of the Illapurinja is to punish a woman who has not mourned properly on 
the death of a daughter, blood or tribal — The Atninga or avenging party — 
Account of the proceedings of a party — Offering the use of women to the 
party — Agreement between the avenging party and the old men of the 
attacked party to kill three of the latter — A special hre is built at each camp — 
Spearing the victims — The actual slayers must not touch the bodies — Seizure 
of a woman — Immu-inja who actually slew the men and Alknalarmika, the on- 
lookers — Return to the home camp — Precautions to prevent the Immirmja 
being iniured by the spirits of the dead men — The women strike the shields — 
The spirit of the dead man assumes the form of a bird which must be watched 
for as it flies over the camp, otherwise it will produce paralysis. 

Amongst the Central Australian natives there is no such 
thing as behef in natural death ; however old or decrepit a 
man or woman may be when this takes place it is at once 
supposed that it has been brought about by the magic in- 
fluence of some enemy, and in the normal condition of the 
tribe the death of one individual is followed by the murder of 
some one else who is supposed to be guilty of having caused 
the death. Not infrequently the dying man will whisper in 
the ear of a Railtchawa, or medicine man, the name of the 
man whose magic is killing him. If this be not done then there 
is no difficulty, by some other method, of fixing sooner or 
later on the guilty party. Perhaps when digging the grave a 
hole will be found leading out of it on one side, which at once 


shows the direction in which the culprit Hves ; or this ma\- be 
indicated, perhaps as long as a }'ear after the death, b}- a 
burrow made by some animal on one side of the grave. 
The identity of the guilty man is always revealed by the 
medicine man. 

When it is known who the culprit is a Kurdaitcha part}" 
may be arranged to avenge the death. This custom is, so 
the natives sa\', much less frequentl)' carried out at the pres- 
ent day than in former }'ears, and in the southern parts of the 
tribe seems to have died out altogether.^ When it is decided 
who is guilty, a council of the old men of the group to which 
the dead man belonged is held and, if it be decided that 
vengeance is to be exacted by means of a Kurdaitcha party, 
then the man who is to play this part is chosen. The name 
Kurdaitcha is applied to the latter - and he wears the shoes 
to which by white men the name of Kurdaitcha shoes has 
been given. In the north the native name for them is Iiiter- 
linia and in the south IntatJnirta. 

These shoes have the form of a thick pad of emu feathers 
matted together with human blood drawn from the arm of 
some young man. They are so ingeniousl}- made however that 
the use of an}-thing like blood in their construction would 
never be suspected ; indeed it is difficult to detect, even with 
the shoes in one's hands, how the feathers are matted into 
such a compact mass without apparently the use of anything 
like stitching. On the upper surface is a network of human 
hair string made from the hair of any living man or woman — 
it does not in the least signify who the individual is — and in 
the middle of the network is a hole through which the foot 
passes and across which stretches a cord made of several 

^ An excellent account of the Kurdaitcha custom as it formerly existed in the 
southern part of the Arunta tribe has already been published by Mr. P. M. Byrne, 
Proc. Roy. Soc, Victoria, vol. iii. (new series), p. 65. Various accounts have 
from time to time been published with regard to the so-called Kurdaitcha shoes 
associating them with "rain-making," etc., but the most accurate and reliable 
account is that given by Mr. Byrne, and quoted subsequently by Dr. Stirling in 
the Anthropological Report of the Horn Expedition. An interesting account con- 
taining various ideas with regard to the shoes is given by Mr. R. Etheridge, jun., 
Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. , 1894, p. 544. 

- In the Urabunna tribe the same custom prevails, but the name Kuthi is given 
to the man. 


strands of hair string twisted together. As we have said, it is 
is by no means an easy matter to make the shoes and, as 
usual, in the manufacture of any special article, there are 
certain individuals who are famed for their skill in making 
them. No woman or child may see them and they are kept 
wrapped up in skin or else placed for safety in the sacred 
store house along with the Churinga. It is said that they 
may be used more than once, but the nature of the shoe is 
such that it could not last more than one journey over the 
hard ground characteristic of the interior. 

Before a man may wear the shoes he has to submit to a 
most painful ordeal. A stone is heated to redness and then 
applied to the ball of the small toe of either foot, it does not 
matter which, until, as the natives say, the joint is softened 
when with a sudden jerk, the toe is pulled outwards and the 
joint is thus dislocated. There is no doubt that some such 
ordeal as this is passed through, as we have examined feet of 
men who claim to be what is called Ertzva Ktirdaitdia at 
Charlotte Waters, Crown Point on the Finke River, Owen 
Springs and Alice Springs amongst the Macdonnell Ranges, 
all of which show the remarkable peculiarity of the disloca- 
tion. In correspondence with this is the fact that the true 
Kurdaitcha shoe has, at one side, a small opening made in 
the hair network through which the toe is thrust.^ 

Each Kurdaitcha man when going on his errand is accom- 
panied by a medicine man and the two men are rubbed over 
with charcoal — black being in the Arunta tribe the colour asso- 
ciated with magic — and decorated with bands of white down. 
The hair of both men is tied up behind and a small conical 
helmet of twigs is fastened on with hair string. The Kurd- 
aitcha himself has lines of down passing across the front of 
the helmet, down the side of the face and front of the body 
and legs as far as the knees. The medicine man has a median 
line running from the top of the helmet to the tip of his 
nose ; another curved line meeting this at both ends encloses 

■^ A considerable number of these shoes are made apparently more for models 
than for use, and such are usually much too small to be worn on a native foot, 
and do not have the small hole, though probably this is not made until the time 
of actual use. 

f '■'^ 


\ '■ 


I, The shoe decorated with down ; 2, the under, and 3, upper surface ot undecor- 
ated shoe ; 4, human hair string used to tie the shoe to the foot ; 5, small 
churinga carried by the Kurdaitcha. 


the eye of each side ; and on the body a broad band of charcoal 
runs across from shoulder to shoulder and downwards till, at 
the level of the sternum, it divides into two, one passing on 
either side of the mid line and so on as far down as the knee. 
The bands are outlined with white down, and, as the pattern 
is a constant one, the Kurdaitcha man can always be dis- 
tinguished from the medicine man. 

Both of the men wear the Interlinia or shoes which, when 
thus in use, are decorated with lines of white and pink down, 
and, while they are being put on and attached to the feet and 
legs with human hair string, the Kurdaitcha sings 

" Interlinia turlaa attipa 
Interlinia attipa." 

which literally translated means " Interlinia to me hold fast, 
interlinia hold fast." There is not, either at the making or at 
the putting on of the shoes, anything in the way of an in- 
cantation beyond this simple one. 

Like the man who is on any particular occasion acting as 
a Kurdaitcha, the doctor himself must be an Ertwa KurdaitcJia 
who has qualified by passing through the ordeal by fire in 
which the toe is dislocated. Both men carry shields and 
spears, and also one or more Churinga, which are supposed 
as usual to impart to them strength, courage, accuracy of aim, 
and also to render them invisible to their enemies, and in 
addition they act as charms to prevent their wearers being 
wounded. Around his waist each one wears the Kirra-nrkna^ 
or girdle, made from the hair which has been cut from a 
warrior after his death and which is supposed to add to the 
wearer all the war-like virtues of the dead man. 

Followed by the medicine man the Kurdaitcha takes the 
lead until the enemy is sighted. Then the medicine man falls 
into the rear while the Kurdaitcha stealthily creeps forward 
towards his quarry and suddenly rising up, spears him before 
he is aware of the presence of an enemy. Both medicine man 
and Kurdaitcha have meanwhile put the sacred Churinga 
between their teeth and when they are thus armed the spear 
cannot fail to strike the victim. As soon as this is done the 
Kurdaitcha man goes away to some little distance from the 


fallen man and from which he cannot see the operations of 
the medicine man who now approaches and performs his 
share in the work. By aid of his magic powers and by 
means of the Atnongara stones he heals the victim. These 
Atnongara stones are small crystalline structures which every 
medicine man is supposed to be able to produce at will from 
his own body throughout which it is believed that they are 
distributed — in fact it is the possession of these stones which 
gives to the medicine man his virtue. Into the spear wound 
he rubs a white greasy substance called Ernia which he 
obtains by pressure of the skin glands on the outside of the 
nostril. After all external traces of the wound have dis- 
appeared he goes quietly away and, together with the Kur- 
daitcha man returns to his own country. Having been 
touched b\- the At)iongara stones, the victim returns to life, 
but is complete!}- ignorant of all that has taken place. He 
returns to camp and in a short time sickens and dies. His 
death is attributed to Kurdaitcha or to some other form of 
magic influence, but no one will be able to trace the tracks of 
the Kurdaitcha. 

Another form of Kurdaitcha which has not the sanction of 
the council of elders but is said to be the more favourite 
method of procedure is for the Kurdaitcha to go alone with- 
out the medicine man accompanying him. After killing 
his enemy he allows the body to lie out in the sun for an hour 
or two and then he makes an incision in the tong-ue throus'h 
which he sucks away the blood which is supposed to have 
accumulated internally. Then he plugs up the spear wound 
with the Alpita (a rat tail tip ornament worn as a con- 
ventional covering) and leaves it there a short time while he 
sings a magic chant. Then the Alpita is removed and a 
small fire stick is held close to the wound so that the skin 
contracts and the wound closes up and heals. Sometimes 
instead of sucking the tongue, the Kurdaitcha catches 
a special kind of slender, smooth bodied lizard {Rho- 
dona bipes) which frequents the roots of Mulga trees and 
inserts the head of the animal into the wound through which 
it is supposed to suck up all the blood. Finally he either 
bites the tongue of the victim or else presses a charmed bone 

I I 


called an Injilla under it, the effect of either of which actions 
is to cause the victim to completel)' lose all recollection of 
what has taken place when, a short time afterwards, he comes 
to life again. The man who has thus been killed returns to 
his camp having no idea of what has happened, and soon 
sickens and dies. 

Whilst there is much of a mythical nature about the Kur- 
daitcha it is quite possible that there is a certain amount of 
truth underlying a good deal that is, of course, a matter of 

riG. 97.— KUKIMIiCllA CUKKI'IM: 11' 1" lUh I-.M..MV. 

Between his teeth he holds a small stone Churinga ; the shoes are seen on his 
feet, and in his left hand he holds a shield and two or three wooden Churinga. 

pure imagination. It is very possible that the shoes, if not 
actually used at the present day, have been used in past times 
for the purpose of aiding in secret killing and, to the present 
day, the fear of the Kurdaitcha man lurking around is always 
present with the native. We have met several Kurdaitcha 
men who claim to have killed their victim and many more 
men who are perfectly certain that they have seen Kurdaitcha. 
One group of men will tell you that they do not go Kur- 
daitcha but that another group does do so, and if you then 
question the latter they will tell you that they do not, but 


that their accusers do. It is in fact a case of each beheving 
the other guilty and both being innocent. At the same time 
many will at once confess that they do go Kurdaitcha, when 
as a matter of fact they do not. 

As to the question of tracking, the idea which has been 
generally held, that the shoes are used to prevent the tracks 
being seen will not be regarded as at all satisfactory by those 
who are acquainted with the remarkable power of the 
Australian native in this respect. The}' will neither hide the 
track nor, though they are shaped alike at each end, will they 
even suffice to prevent an}- native who cares to look from 
seeing at a glance which direction the wearer has come from, 
or gone towards. Any even moderately experienced native 
will, without the slighest difficulty, tell from the faintest track 
— from an upturned stone, a down-bent piece of grass or a twig 
of shrub — not only that some one has passed by but also the 
direction in which he has travelled. The only way in which 
they can be of use in hiding tracks is by preventing it from 
being recognised who was the particular individual, and in 
this way they might be of service, for when once an experi- 
enced native — almost incredible though it may sound to those 
who have not had the opportunity of watching them — has 
seen the track of a man or woman he will distinguish it after- 
wards from that of any other individual of his acquaintance. 

Most probably the explanation is, not that the native can- 
not follow the track, but that either he persuades himself that 
he cannot, or, what is still more likely, that the fear of the 
magic power of the dreaded Kurdaitcha causes him, if he 
catches sight of such a track, to avoid as much as possible the 
spot where he has seen it, in just the same way in which an 
ordinary European peasant will avoid the spot haunted by a 

Our impression with regard to the Kurdaitcha is that at the 
present day it is merely a matter of myth, though at the same 
time every native is firmly convinced that some other native 
does actually " go Kurdaitcha," and is quite prepared, as a 
general rule, to allow others to think that he himself does ; he 
will even go to the length of suffering the pain of having his toe 
dislocated in order to " prove " that he is a genuine Ertiva Kur- 

I I 2 


daitcha. To those who are personally acquainted with the 
Australian native there will not appear to be anything at 
all improbable in this. He delights in mystery, and for the 
purpose of standing high in the estimation of his fellow men 
will submit to inconveniences and discomforts which perhaps 
appear to a white man to be ludicrously out of all proportion 
to the advantages to be gained, but to him it is far otherwise, 
and the mystery which surrounds and lends importance to the 
individual who has actually, for example, " gone Kurdaitcha," 
is just what appeals to the imagination of the Australian 
native. At the same time it is not by any means improbable 
that at some time past some such custom associated with 
secret killing was even largely practiced, and formed a kind 
of endless vendetta. Possibly some old Oknirabata whose 
superior wisdom had gained for him great repute (just as it 
would do at the present day), perceiving the endless deaths 
which it entailed, introduced the curious and painful ordeal of 
dislocation of the toe as a means of checking the practice. 

During the Engwura which we witnessed a special ceremony 
was performed which had reference to the Kurdaitcha custom. 
This was called the Ininj'a, the word being the name applied 
to a small party of men sent out by the older men of any 
group to kill some special individual. The ceremony was in 
the possession of the Alatunja of a group of Ullakupera (little 
hawk) men and had been received by him from a group of 
natives living out to the east. In connection with the per- 
formance five men were decorated with bands of charcoal edged 
with white down, a line of the latter running straight from the 
top of the helmet along the bridge of the nose and then over the 
upper lip and beard, which was tied back upon the face with 
hair string. A semi-circle of white down, each end of which 
touched the median line surrounded the eyes. Every man 
carried a shield, and was either armed with a spear-thrower or 
boomerang, while one of them carried a long spear, the pointed 
end of which was decorated with down. 

One by one the men ran out with exaggerated high knee 
action from the group of natives who were assembled at one 
side of the Engwura ground. Crouching down in various 
spots, each man lay on the ground with his shield over his 


head and his body huddled up so as to occupy as little space as 
possible. They all lay perfectly still while an old man armed 
only with a fighting club came and walked about, wandering 
here and there as if he were looking for some track. Then 
the Kurdaitcha men arose and one after the other crept 
stealthily up to him from behind. Suddenly he turned round 
and caught sight of the Kurdaitcha who were just about to 
kill him with a boomerang or spear. Then a mock fight 
took place, in which the Kurdaitcha was always worsted and 
tumbled down, the old man each time giving him a final tap 
with his club, which particularly pleased the audience, for in 
these performances there are certain conventional actions 
which must be observed by the actors. One after another the 
Kurdaitcha men came up, and each was worsted in his turn. 
When apparently all had been killed the old man still went 
wandering about, and the same performance was again gone 
through. After about fifteen minutes had been spent in this way 
the old man leisurel}" walked back to the group of spectators, 
once more killing each of the men before he got there. 
When close home a combined attack was made upon him, 
but with no success, as he killed them all and the perform- 
ance ended with him standing, brandishing his club over their 
dead bodies, which^ were heaped together in front of him. 
The actions of the old man and of the Kurdaitcha men might 
have been copied from a stage fight. 

Tradition relates that the incident to which the performance 
refers actually took place in the far past when a noted warrior 
slew five Kurdaitchas who followed him as he went out 
tracking animals for food. 

The Cu-Stom of Illapurinja 

Illapurinja, a word which means " the changed one," is the 
name given to a woman who may be spoken of as, in a 
modified form, a female Kurdaitcha, and whom we may 
regard, at all events at the [present day, as being entirely 
a mythical personage, whose existence in the mind of the 
native is concerned mainlv with the observance of certain 


customs in connection with mourning for dead relatives. The 
natives' idea with regard to her is as follows. 

On very rare occasions a woman may, at her own request, 
be sent out by her husband to avenge some injury done, or 
supposed to be done, to one of her own kindred. There is 
no such thing as any consultation of the old men in connec- 
tion with this ; in fact, if they knew of its being prepared, 
they would prevent her going, so that the affair is a secret 
one, known only to the woman and her husband. It seems 
as if the Illapurinja has never been a very popular form of 
avenging an injury, and is very rarely mentioned except 
when a medicine man discovers that one of his patients, who 
has been seized with sudden and unaccountable illness, is 
suffering from the attack of an Illapurinja. As usual, the 
natives when questioned on the subject said that though they 
knew all about it, yet it was a custom which they did not 
practise, or, rather, had not practised for many years, but 
that it was prevalent out to the east. It is only a few years 
since a man was out hunting euros near to Alice Springs, and 
was attacked by an Illapurinja who had come from an out- 
lying group. He was picked up insensible (the day was a 
very hot one, and in all probability the case was one of 
sunstroke), and brought into camp in a dazed condition. 
Under the treatment of an able medicine man, whose 
services were fortunately available, he recovered, after the 
extraction from his body of a number of pieces of a wooden 

When being prepared, the Illapurinja is rubbed all over 
with grease and red ochre and decorated with white down, 
which is fixed on to her body with blood drawn from her 
husband, this being the only occasion known to us on which 
a woman is thus decorated. Her head is ornamented with 
head rings and tufts of tail tips. In one hand she carries 
a long fighting club, the ends of which are decorated with 
down, and in the other a large wooden Churinga, which has 
been specially made for the occasion by her husband. 

When the decoration, which is done in perfect secresy, is 
complete, no one but just the man and woman knowing any- 
thing whatever about it, the husband takes one of her digging 



sticks, fixes it upright in the ground, and ties on to the 
upper end a small tuft of Alpita or rat tails. This he care- 

in,. 9b>. — U.l.Al-Uki.NJA WiJ.MA.N. 

Carrying in the right hand a charmed stick and in the left a decorated fighting club. 
She is in the act of throwing the charmed stick at the enemy. 

fully watches while .she is away. Should she be killed, then 
the Alpita at once falls to the ground of its own accord ; and 


the husband, understanding what this means, will immediately 
destroy his camp and everything in it which belonged to the 
Illapurinja, and move to a new spot, leaving, however, the 
digging stick and A /pita untouched. 

It is always night time when the woman sets out, and 
after having been decorated, she first of all lies down in the 
camp as if nothing unusual were about to happen ; but when 
her husband is asleep she steals quietly away quite alone, and 
goes to the place where she hopes to find the man or woman 
whom she is in search of It it be a man, then she lies down 
concealed, and waiting her opportunity, which comes when 
his attention is occupied in stalking a kangaroo or emu. If 
a woman be her quarry, then she hides close to some favourite 
" yam " ground, and when the former is busy digging up the 
tubers she creeps up. In either case the Churinga is thrown 
from behind so as to hit the victim's neck, when it enters the 
body, becoming, as it does so, broken up into a number of 
small pieces. 

The victim at once becomes insensible, and remains so for 
some little time, and, when consciousness is once more re- 
covered, suffers great pain. In the case of an old woman 
death is sure to follow, but in that of a man or younger 
woman, recovery is possible with the aid of a clever medicine 
man, who, after much trouble and by dint of long-continued 
rubbing and sucking, may succeed in extracting the broken 
bits of Churinga from the patient's body. 

If successful, the Illapurinja returns at once to her husband's 
camp, always waiting, however, till it be dark before she 
comes close up to it. During her absence he has made, and 
kept burning, a small fire at some little distance. By the 
side of this she lies down quietly until her husband discovers 
her presence, when he goes and takes her by the arm and 
leads her into his camp, where both of them sit down without 
speaking a word, while he removes all traces of the decorations 
and rubs her with fat and red ochre. The woman then takes 
up the stick to which the Alpita is tied, and sits down, 
while the man asks questions to which she replies, but she 
must not volunteer any information. 

The special breach of custom, \\'ith the punishment of which 


the Illapurinja is associated, is the omission of a Mia to cut 
herself as a mark of sorrow on the death of an Umba, that is, 
a daughter blood or tribal. Such an omission is a grave 
offence against a dead Umba, and the dread of punishment 
at the hands of an Illapurinja must act as a strong inducement 
to secure the proper carrjnng out of the ceremony. If 
one Mia omits to cut herself, then some other one will go 
in search of her, and, failing the chance of killing her, will 
strike one of the offending woman's brothers. There is now 
living at Alice Springs a man who was thus injured by an 
Illapurinja, and whose life was only just saved, so the natives 
believe, by the exertions of a medicine man. When his 
death does occur, it will undoubtedh' be attributed to this 
attack, certain parts of the Churinga — so it will be said — not 
having been extracted. 

This is the onh- case which has come to our knowledge in 
which a woman is decorated with down fixed on with blood, 
and in which she actuall}- handles a Churinga. The latter, of 
course, is not one of the ancestral Churinga, but it is regarded 
as being a sacred stick, and is spoken of as a Churinga just as 
are certain other similarly shaped sticks which are used in 
various ceremonies, for which the}' ma}- be special!}' made. 
All that the woman is told is that the stick has been sung 
over, and is what is called Arungqiiiltha, that is, charged 
with magic and evil influence. 

The whole affair is a superstition kept alive to make some 
women believe that the}', or their brothers, will suffer if 
certain ceremonies are not dul}' attended to, and it is 
worth}' of notice that in this instance the victim belongs to 
the same group as the avenger. 

The Atninga ok Avenging Party 

Very often one group of natives, that is, the members of 
the tribe inhabiting a particular localit}', will quarrel with the 
members of some other group either belonging to the same or 
to some other tribe. The quarrel is usually due to one of 
two causes : either some man has stolen a wife from some 
other group, or else the death of a native is attributed by the 


medicine man to the magic of some member of a distant 
group. When this is so, the aggrieved party will arrange to 
make an attack upon the men who are regarded as the 
aggressors. Most often the attackers, armed with spears and 
spear-throwers, boomerangs, and shields, \v\\\ march up to 
the enemies' camp, and the quarrel will be confined to a 
wordy warfare, lasting perhaps for an hour or two, after 
which things quieten down, and all is over ; but in some 
cases a regular fight takes place, in which severe wounds 
may be inflicted. In other cases the attacking party will 
steal down upon the enemy, and, lying in ambush, will await 
an opportunity of spearing one or two of the men without any 
risk to themselves. 

The following incident which happened recently will serve 
to show what often takes place. 

The men living in the country round about Alice Springs 
in the Macdonnell Range were summoned by Inzmirra, that 
is, properly accredited messengers carrying Churinga. who 
had been sent out by the Alatunja of the group to assemble 
for the of making war upon the Iliaura tribe, which 
occupies the countr\- between eighty and a hundred miles to 
the north of the Ranges. 

For a long time the northern groups of the Arunta tribe 
had been in fear of the Iliaura, who had been continually 
sending in threatening messages, or at least it was constantly 
reported that they were doing so, for it must be remembered 
that imagination plays a large part in matters such as 
amongst the natives. Several deaths, also, which had taken 
place amongst the Arunta, had been attributed by the medicine 
men to the evil magic of certain of the Iliaura men. When 
the messengers and the men summoned had assembled at 
Alice Spriiigs a council of the elder men was held, at which 
it was determined to make a raid on the Iliaura, and accord- 
ingly a party was organised for the purpose. Such an 
avenging party is called an Atninga. 

When all was prepared the Atninga started away for the 
north, and, after travelling for several days, came upon a 
group of Iliaura men, consisting of about a dozen families, 
near to whom they camped for two days. 


As usual on such occasions, the Iliaura sent some of their 
women over to the strangers' camp, but the fact that the use 
of the women was decHned by the visitors at once indicated 
that the mission of the latter was not a friendly one. The 
women are offered with a view of conciliating the Atninga 
men, who, if they accept the favour, indicate by so doing that 
the quarrel will not be pursued any further. 

In the Iliaura community were two old men, and with them 
matters were discussed by the elder men amongst the Arunta 
at a spot some little distance from the camp of the latter. 
After a long talk extending over two days, during which the 
strangers set forth their grievances and gave the Iliaura men 
ver}' clearly to understand that they were determined to exact 
vengeance, the two old men said, in effect, " Go no further. Our 
people do not wish to quarrel with your people ; there are three 
bad men in our camp whom we Iliaura do not like, they must 
be killed. Two are lUirka (that is men who have married 
within the forbidden degrees of relationship) ; the other is very 
quarrelsome and strong in magic and has boasted of killing 
your people by means of Kurdaitcha and other magic. Kill 
these men, but do not injure any others in our camp, and we 
will help you." 

These terms were accepted b\- the Arunta, and it was 
agreed between the old men of the two parties that an 
attempt should be made to kill the three men on the next 
da\'. At daylight the old men of the Iliaura went some 
little distance away from their camp, and there made a fire, 
and called up the other men of their party. This special fire, 
at which it is intended to surprise and kill the men who have 
been condemned and handed over to the tender mercies of 
their enemies, is called Thara (the ordinar}- word for fire being 
Urd). At the Atninga camp another fire, also called Thara, 
was lighted at the same time. Shortly after daj-light a number 
of the Arunta, led by an old man, went over to the Thara of 
the Iliaura, all of them being unarmed, and here they took 
special care to engage the condemned men in conversation. 
The remainder of the Atninga party in full war-paint, with 
whittled sticks in their hair, their bodies painted with red 
ochre, carrying spears, boomerangs, and shields, and each one 


wearing the magic Kirra-urkna or girdle made of a dead 
man's hair, crept up unseen and, suddenly springing up, 
speared two of the condemned men from behind. The third 
man — one of the two Ihirka — had grown suspicious during 
the night and had accordingly decamped, taking his women 
with him. 

A large number of spears were thrown into the bodies of 
the men who were killed. When they were dead the Atninga 
party danced round the bodies, and taking the whittled sticks 
or Ilkunta from their heads, broke them up and threw the 
pieces on to the bodies. These Ilkunta are always worn by 
certain groups of the Northern Arunta when they really mean 
to fight, and amongst the same natives also under these 
circumstances little curved flakes are cut by means of flints 
on their spears about a foot from the pointed end. 

The Iliaura men looked on quietly while the killing took 
place, and when all was over, the spears were taken out of 
the bodies by the men of the Arunta who had acted as decoys, 
and were handed back to their respective owners. It is 
supposed that if the latter themselves removed them some 
great evil would befall them, as the body and anything 
in contact with it of a victim killed in this way is strictly tabu 
to the killer. 

When this had been done, the Arunta went to the main 
camp of the Iliaura and took the Unazva of one of the dead 
men, and she became and is now the property of the old man 
who seized her, she being a woman of the class into which he 
could lawfully marry. One girl child was annexed by one of 
the younger men, who carried her on his back for the greater 
part of the return journey for about a hundred miles. The 
two women who belonged to the Itiirka man were away, but 
no attempt was made to capture them, as being themselves 
Iturka, they would not be taken as wives by the men of the 
avenging party. They would when captured meet with severe 
punishment at the hands of the Iliaura men and in all probability 
would be put to death. Had they been the proper Unawa of 
the dead man, they would, if present, have been appropriated 
by men of the Atninga party to whom they were also Unawa. 
The special name of lumiirinja is given to the men who 


actually took part in the spearing, those who acted as decoys 
and who thus merely took a passive part, being called 
Alknalarinika which means " onlookers." 

Travelling back to the Arunta countr\-, the Atninga party 
separated into various contingents, each of which went to its 
own locality, upon arrival at which certain ceremonies had to 
be observed. The Alice Springs contingent, which will serve 
to illustrate what took place in each instance, halted some 
distance awa}' from the main camp and decorated their bodies, 
painting them all over with powdered charcoal and placing on 
their foreheads and through the septum of the nose small twigs 
of a species of Eremophila. As soon as they came in sight 
of the main camp they began to perform an excited war-dance, 
approaching in the form ot a square and holding and moving 
their shields as if to ward off something which was being 
thrown at them. This action is called InilcJiiukhvuma and 
is intended to beat off the Ultliana or spirit of the dead 

The Immirinja men were in the lead and, upon arrival 
within sight of the camp, they separated from the others and 
formed a single extended line with spears at rest and their 
shields held in front of them with the convex side outwards. 
Not a word was spoken and the Immirinja stood perfectly 
still looking straight ahead. The Alknalarinika men, who now 
formed an irregular square in the rear, shouted out, with evident 
enjoyment, the result of the expedition. Then a number of 
old women approached carrying fighting clubs and performing, 
as they came along, a kind of exulting skip movement. 
Each one with her club struck the shield of every one of 
the Immirinja, and when this had been done the men who did 
not go on the expedition followed suit, using their boomerangs. 

The striking of the shields is called idqiiita atuma 
{iilquita shields, atuma to strike). This is a ceremony of very 
considerable importance, and every one listens intently to the 
sound which is produced by the blow. It it be hollow 
{atalya), the owner of the shield is under some malignant 
influence and he will not live long ; if, on the other hand, the 
the sound is firm and strong {elatilkima), then he is safe and 
is not a victim of majjic. 


After the shield striking was over the women and children 
returned to their camp and the Atninga party marched to the 
corrobboree ground, the Iimniritija men remaining perfectly 
silent. There, all sat perfectly silent, the Inimirinja in the front 
and the Alknalarinika behind them. After singing and beating 
of boomerangs had gone on for some time two of the Immirinja 
jumped up and, making a wide circuit of the gathering, ran 
round with exaggerated knee action and went through a 
performance in which they imitated the different attitudes of 
attack and defence. They then halted with spears at rest and 
shields held as before, until all of the men who had not been 
with them came up and struck their shields with a boomerang, 
after which they walked back to the party and sat down. 
The same performance was passed through by all the 
Immirinja two at a time. It is supposed to be very effective 
as a means of frightening the Ulthana, that is the spirit of 
the dead man. One of the shields gave out a hollow sound 
at which all appeared to be much distressed, while some 
shouted out telling the man to hold it straight up. After 
slightly altering the position it was again struck and to the 
apparent relief of the listeners gave out the right sound. 
While this ceremony was in progress the Alknalarinika men 
were vying with each other in relating the details of the 
expedition, only stopping to listen when the shields were 

Shortly afterwards the men separated and went to their 
respective camps. During that night, and for some days 
afterwards, none of the Immirinja would speak of the 
incidents of the expedition, and they continued to paint their 
bodies with charcoal and to decorate their foreheads and 
noses with green twigs ; finally they painted their bodies and 
faces with bright colours and became free to talk about the 
affair. Their troubles were not yet over however. The 
Ulthana or spirit of the dead man is supposed to follow the 
party in the form of a little bird called Chichurkna and is 
constantly on the look-out to injure the Immirinja. While 
flying it makes a noise like a child crying in the distance, and, 
should any one of the men fail to hear thi